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Edited and Published by Robert W. McDowell

May 12, 2022 Issue
PART 5 (May 14, 2022)

A FREE Weekly E-mail Newsletter Covering Theater, Dance, Music, and Film in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill/Carrboro Area of North Carolina Since April 2001.

PART 5A: TRIANGLE THEATER REVIEW BY SUSIE POTTER

Theatre Raleigh Serves Up Pure Joy with Forever Plaid

Stuart Ross' popular 1990 Off-Broadway musical revue, Forever Plaid, is a breezy, fluffy kind of show; and the quality of local productions can vary greatly. In the case of Theatre Raleigh's current presentation, however, it's a total blast.

Directed by Stephanie Pope Lofgren, with musical direction by Joanna Li, the show takes place on a sleek, stylish new stage in the Theatre Raleigh Arts Center; and it's fun from beginning to end. A huge part of the credit, of course, goes to the uber-talented cast and crew. But Theatre Raleigh's expanding venue and vibe also play a role in casting Forever Plaid in a whole new light.

Viewers are treated to a casual cabaret feel, and not the manufactured kind that you find at many venues. There are drinks, popcorn, comfy seats, and low lighting, all of which combine to create a relaxed atmosphere -- the kind of atmosphere that's just right for enjoying a show like this one.

Forever Plaid has always been a little on the silly side, and it gets sillier and sillier as its 90 minutes draw to a close. Put it on in a stuffy environment, and it often falls flat. Put it on in the warm, welcoming walls of the Theatre Raleigh Arts Center, however; and it feels like a good time with friends.


Forever Plaid stars (from left) Andrew Wade, David Robbins, Matthew Fairlee, and Tedd Szeto (photo by Jennifer Griffin Robertson)

The loose script centers around The Plaids, a band that met its unfortunate demise in 1964 and is back to perform one last concert. In this production, the four Plaids come out carrying candles while a background of cool video effects sets the scene. They take their places at the mics, tell their stories, and sing their songs. But the unique combination of environment and energy makes their performance wonderfully enthralling. In fact, the strange story even becomes oddly believable. Viewers feel like they're really witnessing a final, desperate concert; and they fall in love with each band member along the way.

Of course, that's pretty easy to do, because there couldn't be a more loveable cast. Four diverse actors (and two talented musicians) use their stage time as a lesson in charm. Andrew Wade's "Sparky" has a literal sparkle in his eye the whole time, whereas Tedd Szeto's "Smudge" comes across as sweetly nerdy and incredibly endearing. Dave Robbins lends his big smile and brawny build to create a huggable "Francis," and Matthew Fairlee emits surprising vulnerability in his role as "Jinx."

Each actor has the pipes necessary for the role, as well as the most important element: a whole lot of joy. The joy is there when they deliver Parker Esse's purposefully cheesy choreography with total commitment. It's there when they sing into plungers, spin plates, and limbo across the stage. It infuses every second, and it's so infectious that viewers are sad when it's over.

After two plus years of COVID-19, this production feels like much-needed medicine. There wasn't anyone sans a smile at the opening night performance. If you want to pass around the "Book of Life," laugh a lot, and see a script elevated from mundane to marvelous, don't miss this one.


Forever Plaid stars (from left) Andrew Wade, David Robbins, Matthew Fairlee, and Tedd Szeto (photo by Jennifer Griffin Robertson)

Stuart Ross' FOREVER PLAID (In Person at 8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 14, 15, and 18-22), directed by Stephanie Pope Lofgren and choreographed by Parker Esse, with musical direction by Joanna Li, and starring David Robbins, Andrew Wade, Matthew Fairlee, and Tedd Szeto (Theatre Raleigh at the Theatre Raleigh Arts Center at 6638 Old Wake Forest Rd. in Raleigh). TRAILERS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16VWcsX6QX0 and https://www.facebook.com/TheatreRaleigh/videos/2316337715207650. 2022 MAIN-STAGE SEASON: https://theatreraleigh.com/2022-main-stage-season/. THE PRESENTER/VENUE: https://theatreraleigh.com/, https://www.facebook.com/TheatreRaleigh, https://www.instagram.com/theatre_raleigh/, https://twitter.com/theatreraleigh, and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBrPHqUNhtfRMWQ2Ej8Fxeg. DIRECTIONS/PARKING: https://theatreraleigh.com/location-parking/. COVID REQUIREMENTS: https://theatreraleigh.com/covid-19-updates/. THE SHOW: https://www.mtishows.com/forever-plaid, http://www.iobdb.com/Production/1372, http://www.foreverplaid.com/, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1262896/, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forever_Plaid. THE SCRIPT (excerpts): https://idoc.pub/documents/forever-plaid-libretto-546g99ey7qn8. TICKETS: $35 ($32.50 students, seniors 62+, and active-duty military personnel), plus taxes and fees. Click here to buy tickets. INFORMATION: 919-832-9997, info@theatreraleigh.com, or boxoffice@theatreraleigh.com. PLEASE DONATE TO: Theatre Raleigh.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh's Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. She is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read more of Susie Potter's writings, click http://www.triangleartsreview.com/, http://www.susiepotter.com, and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.

 


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