Some of us hearken for the days when people tended to whistle a happy tune as they sauntered down the street. Mostly everyone seemed in a good mood and all the people you passed on your daily travels were potential friends just waiting to be made. Until February 22nd at Montreal’s vaunted dramatic landmark the Segal Centre, those days are only a tight vocal harmony away. Forever Plaid evokes images of big shiny cars, sipping ice cream floats at the malt shop with your sweetheart and the enormous jukeboxes with all the vinyl you could handle. Well, the subject of this particular and passionate musical is a doo wop group that never saw their dreams pressed onto vinyl – not for lack of talent, but for the simple fact they are deceased.
Hence the premise for Forever Plaid (with intended emphasis on Forever): a group with no instruments other than the sweet sounds their combined vocal abilities can produce en route to their first big concert. They don’t make it, but what they lack in a noticeable pulse or a heartbeat, they more than make up for in timeless harmonies, clever and witty dialogue, fantastical dance numbers and dream sequences, high interactivity with the audience and some awe-inspiring physical comedy and slapstick. This production is a delight from beginning to end, as the talented lads who comprise the cast emote and perform at a high energy level – likely signifying they’re either phenomenal actors as well as singers or they are genuinely having a blast (possibly both). Either way, the audience is treated to a trip back in time that you don’t have to be a post-Great Depression youngster or Baby Boomer to appreciate. For younger patrons, they can catch glimpses of what a world that wasn’t so centered on the wireless and was connected through fellowship and brotherhood rather than technology looked and felt like. From comedy to life lessons, from nostalgia in pop culture to the greater arching theme of lost hopes and dreams, as well as redemption and the underlying message of never giving up, this is one trip to the past that doesn’t necessarily require a return ticket.
Adding to the auditory and harmonious delights are the visual treats of a triad of clever screens projecting images of related fare to the story unfolding, sometimes punctuating the scene with humour or background explanation. A scene involving the quirky quartet vying for their imaginary shot at getting onto the Ed Sullivan Show, essentially the proof for any entertainer that “they’ve made it,” caused squeals of delight in the audience, many of whom recall a Sunday night date with an early example of appointment television, with profound fondness, helped along by the production’s accurate and detailed depiction of the elements and characters that made the landmark show the quintessential variety series in the medium’s history. Ironically, the lives of the not-always-mellow fellows ended on a most historic night, when Ed welcomed The Beatles onto his show and the world changed overnight. A pair of innovative Beatles jokes (including a parody of how She Loves Me would sound if the Plaid incorporated it into their repertoire) just enhanced the reality of what starts out as a pretty far-fetched premise for the enthralled audience. There was not a frown to be found as the crowd exited. Plaid is clearly back in style for the month of February.
1 – Three Coins In the Fountain
2 – Gotta Be This or That / Undecided
3 – Moments to Remember
4 – Crazy ‘Bout Ya’ Baby
5 – No Not Much
6 – Perfidia
7 – Cry
8 – Sixteen Tons / Chain Gang
9 – A Tribute to Mr. C
10 – Caribbean Plaid
11 – Heart and Soul
12 – Lady of Spain
13 – Scotland the Brave
14 – Shangri-La / Rags to Riches
15 – Love Is a Many Splendored Thing