Four Adorable Guys Harmonize at Cape Playhouse

DON'T MISS THIS SHOW

"Forever Plaid" is a Wickedly Cool Winner in Dennis

By Libby Hughes, Cape Cod Today's drama critic, Kathleen A. Fahle photos.

The Cape Playhouse has scored 200% with its musical "Forever Plaid." It is an outright, slam-dunk winner halfway through the season. If you've never heard belly laughter from women in an audience, you will for this show. They shook the benches and their bellies louder than the men on opening night. Without an intermission, the 90 minutes flew by in starlit moments. Give it up for Artistic Director Evans Haile, who can pick a summer show when it really counts. Take a bow, Mr. H.

History of musical and playwright

"Forever Plaid" has celebrated its 20th year in LA this July. The show opened off Broadway in 1990. The four singing guys take harmony from a barbershop quartet concept to a new high. It will blow your mind and amaze your ears. Playwright Stuart Ross has created a weirdly funny classic, which explains its longevity. Ross is a director and choreographer as well as a playwright. His crisp and crazy sense of humor translates into hilarity, played by the four singers. Incidentally, the renowned John Raitt did the vocal arrangements. Perhaps The Plaids are a forerunner to the now popular "Jersey Boys."

Fragments of the plot

To give away the plot in this review would spoil the unfolding of the show. Let's just say that four high school friends were dreaming of cutting an album as a group called The Plaids and hoping to perform before adoring audiences. Their daily life and jobs were deadly dull, compared to a life on the stage. Their dream of climbing up the Stairway to the Stars was interrupted by the Stairway to Heaven. That's the only hint this reviewer will give.

Bouquets to the choreographer/director

Before praising the four talented singers, applause and kudos go to Mark Martino, the director and choreographer. Cape audiences may remember his spectacular choreography of "Guys and Dolls," "Beehive," and "Leader of the Pack." He has a touch that is unique to Martino. Instead of standing four guys in a straight line while singing 30 songs, he puts their bodies--heads, arms, and legs-- through incredible contortions and directs them to use the mikes and microphones like partners in their songs. Their jackets also become props. The singers are always moving, so the audience doesn't have a moment to ho hum. At times, the pace is almost dizzying. Salute Mark Martino for much of the show's success.

Wow to four singers

Under steamy hot stage lights and during 90 minutes non-stop, these four young men poured their hearts and harmonies out to the Cape Playhouse audience without reservation. The 1950 songs resonated with nostalgia for those who can remember way back then. Obviously, they were young performers, but not teenagers and yet, we believed that they were tortured or happy youths. One couldn't say that one singer was better than the other because they were equally good as individuals. Scott Barnhardt was an endearing, almost waif-like character as Jinx, who suffered from nosebleeds (filled with funny bits of stage business). Barnhardt brought the house down while he wrenched out the lyrics of "Cry." Jared Gertner as Sparky was the shortest and delightfully rotund member of the troupe, but also the lightest on his feet. He used his body and eyes to punctuate his humor. Will Reynolds, who played Frankie, was the all American boy with a dazzling smile, but a teenager who suffered from asthmatic attacks. He was the leader and caretaker of the emotional problems of the group. Kevin Vortmann broke our hearts as Smudge when he clung sentimentally to the 45 rpm records from the jukebox era as well as old LP albums. His black-rimmed glasses added pathos to his character. Bravo to four wonderful, strong voices!

But when the music turned to Calypso, the four guys swung into the Jamaican beat with abandon. As they launched into the song, "Matilda," the audience joined in. Two of the Plaid guys took palm trees and strings of lights into the audience along with bongo drums and other wooden instruments. Near the end of the evening, there is a song and scene about singer Perry Como to tickle your memory, too. Also, Tina from the audience volunteered to play a one-finger accompaniment to "Heart and Soul" on the piano with Will Reynolds. She was a good sport to become part of their antics.

Scenery, Costumes, Lights

Davie Esler designed a functional, portable set in sapphire blue with strips of chrome. The background changed from matching blue to plaid and to a round-bellied moon. Costume designer Jose Rivera provided white jackets, plaid cummerbunds, plaid jackets, and plaid bowties. It all worked. Christopher Chambers created memorable mood lighting on the white jackets when the performers were in tableau.

Music

With subtle humor, Musical Director Andrew Gerle became part of the show, but more importantly, he kept his fingers moving up and down the piano keys for all 30 songs. In the back shadows of the stage, the bass player, Will Slater, played consistently alongside Gerle.

Get to the box office

It will be a frosty Friday if the box office doesn't sell EVERY single ticket in the house for the full run of "Forever Plaid." An unforgettable piece of musical theatre.

Performances are July 20 through August 1 Monday to Saturday at 8:00 pm; Wed. at 2:00 pm; Saturday 7/25 at 4:00 pm; Thursday 7/30 at 2:00 pm at the Cape Cod Center for the Arts, Route 6A, Dennis Village. Box office, 508-385-3911.

Below are, left to right, Jared Gertner (Sparky); Scott Barnhardt (Jinx); Will Reynolds (Frankie); Kevin Vortmann (Smudge). Photos by Kathleen A. Fahle.

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