“Forever Plaid” – Hale Centre Theatre
This review aired on KBAQ June 21, 2010
HALE CENTRE PRESENTS ENTERTAINING & POLISHED “FOREVER PLAID”
Hale Centre Theatre
Gilbert’s ambitious community theater, the Hale Centre, continues to do remarkably professional productions. Their current musical, “Forever Plaid,” is a remount of a production done several seasons ago that was great. With a new cast and director, the latest version is just as entertaining and polished.
The musical revue focuses on a four-part guy quartet, a 1950s entertainment staple, who patterned themselves after The Four Aces, The Four Lads, and The Four Freshmen. The group rehearsed until 1964 when they got their first gig. On the way, they were killed by a school bus.
Through some weird astro-technical stuff, they get a chance to come back for a day to present the performance they never got to do. Their repertory includes two dozen hit pop standards like “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “Perfidia,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Catch A Falling Star,” “Heart and Soul,” “Lady of Spain,” and “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing.” They do lots of clever comic things as they sing the songs beautifully. The group’s members include Sparky, a funny guy; the shy but gifted singer Jinx; Smudge, who hides behind bulky glasses and has unusual moments of stage fear; and Francis, an entertaining singer who tries to lead the group.
For this show, the Hale Centre reconfigures its square stage into a thrust and, unlike most of their musicals, they use a live combo instead of recorded music. The striking set that results is the perfect locale. The revue is expertly staged by Michael Bryce and an outstanding ensemble sings with rich harmonies and soaring vocal expertise. The performers are ably backed by the combo that includes a pianist, bass, and drums. Bryce instills much fun and a relaxed ambience to the proceedings and his cast is one of the most accomplished I’ve seen in a community theater production.
DeVal Johnson’s Sparky takes advantage of his great comic ability as he adds bits of welcome humor while he spurts about the stage in an energetic performance. Devon Johnson has just the right hesitancy as Jinx; while Nathan Turley’s overly conscientious Smudge adds pleasant humor. Stephen Erek’s Francis does some imposing solo singing but he struggles here and there with dialogue. While it’s true this impressive ensemble sounds best together, there is some nice solo work.
Hale Centre is an East Valley theatrical gem that presents fine community theater stagings of musicals and comedies. The delightfully entertaining and tuneful “Forever Plaid” continues through July 10. For tickets, call the Hale Centre Theatre box office at 480-497-1181 or go online to www.haletheatrearizona.com.