FOREVER PLAID – St. James Theatre Studio, London.
It’s impossible to tell, of course, if 1950s and 1960s America was ever actually like this. But for an hour and 40 minutes we can make believe that the time was all about chaperoned dances, drive-ins (where you didn’t watch the movie) and circle skirts. This is as romantic a view of the time as you’re likely to see in the Theatre this season, filled with shining white teeth, natty suits, wholesome guys in a close-harmony group and more innocence than a bus filled with Christian schoolkids.
Well actually, maybe more so. The plot here (kind of flimsy, but perfect for this show) is the guys were travelling to their first big show at the airport Hilton, when their car was hit by a that aforementioned bus. All dead, ambitions to perform their final showpiece song Love is a Many Splendored Thing caught short. We join them as they’re deposited back from limbo into 2016 to finish the show they were born to perform, and move on to the next place.
The four singers are on great form here. Slick and pin sharp in their movements. Well-rehearsed enough to make the show put on by men, who have been dead for decades, feel polished. Not to play favourites, but Matthew Quinn as Smudge and Luke Shriffler are two entertainment powerhouses. Of course they can sing. But it’s everything they are doing on that stage without opening their mouths that make them so compelling.
As well as the entertainment of a well run show (congratulations to the director and choreographer Grant Murphy), and the music (tremendous work from Anthony Gabriele), the production presents some of the finest songs of the close harmony heyday. We’re talking ‘Perfidia’, we’re talking a mix of ‘Shangri-La’ and ‘Rags to Riches’, and we are certainly talking the excellently rendered and very funny ‘Crazy ‘Bout Ya Baby’.
Whether you’re into this sort of music or not, is not entirely relevant. It’s a very entertaining show, the music and performances are great. Jon from S Club 7 is in it, having spent years getting even better than he was in those beautiful pop-star days. It also has a confidence in the innocence and fun it suggests that’s nigh on impossible to resist. Good clean fun here at the St. James Studio from a very talented team.
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By Karl O’Doherty
5th April – 24th April 2016
St. James Theatre Studio, London, SW1E 5JA.