Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Forever Plaid

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Holy cannoli and sh-boom! This long-running revue, now in its fourth year, still sparkles with well-timed humor and fine-tuned vocalizing as it simultaneously lampoons and luxuriates in the sweet sounds of pre-Beatles pop. Evoking an era when the epitome of cool was the Lettermen, not Letterman, a male vocal group--the Four Plaids--makes the ultimate comeback: killed en route to a 1964 gig (their station wagon collided with a busful of Fab Four fans), the boys return from heaven for a onetime reunion concert. Bravely battling chronic nosebleeds, loose retainers, and cornball choreography, these teen angels croon their way through chromatically chorded versions of "Cry," "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," "Moments to Remember," and other standards. Director-writer Stuart Ross delights in the characters' squareness and adolescent awkwardness yet finds their brotherly blending charming and honorable, and James Raitt's arrangements shimmer with lustrous jazz harmonies. Raitt never sacrifices musical quality for easy laughs--even in goofy bits like a Harry Belafonte medley, an audience-participation rendition of "Heart and Soul" (who wants to be on top?), and a manic tribute to The Ed Sullivan Show that includes "Lady of Spain" and a '54 Mercury commercial. Deftly performed by singer-actors Paul Slade Smith, Paul Pement, Fred Goudy, and the superb tenor David Gagnon, Forever Plaid is a canny mix of the silly and the sublime. Royal George Theatre Center, cabaret theater, 1641 N. Halsted, Chicago, 312-988-9000. Open run: Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 PM; Saturdays, 5 and 8 PM; Sundays, 3 and 7 PM; selected Tuesdays, 8 PM; additional matinees on selected Wednesdays, 2 PM (call for weekly schedule). See theater listings for special holiday schedule. $29.50-$39.50; $60 for the shows on Wednesday, December 31. --Albert Williams

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): theater still by Dan Rest.

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