Forever Plaid, 4 Stars

Forever Plaid
Upstairs at the Gatehouse
1st to 27th June 2021

“When most of us think of the 1950s, we think of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Hot Rods, Elvis, D.A. haircuts and teenage rebellion. But there was a ‘flipside’ to this era – the side of harmony, innocence and the sincerity of dreams – when American families gathered in front of the TV to watch their favourite programmes, like Ed Sullivan or the Perry Como Show. It was a period when vocal groups harmonised their way across the airwaves and jukeboxes of the USA. Francis, Jinx, Smudge and Sparky loved to sing. They all met in high school around 1956, and, as Forever Plaid, dreamed of becoming like their idols – The Four Aces and The Crew Cuts. They rehearsed in the basement of Smudge’s family’s plumbing supply company. It was here they became FOREVER PLAID.

We are delighted to be bringing this socially distanced production of Forever Plaid back once more to the Gatehouse. This ‘Heavenly Musical’ is one of our favourites with its ‘square’ songs from the Fifties. This delicious fun revue is chock-full of classic quartet harmonies and pitch-perfect melodies.”

Review by Richard Lambert

The 50s spawned a few close-harmony “guy groups”, the vintage equivalent of today’s boybands. One such “doo wop” group, the Plaids, are the cast of this delightful musical revue show which is one of the most fun and internationally successful productions of its genre.

With just a piano (Ian Oakley) and double bass (Jess Martin) for accompaniement, the four boys display brilliant pitch perfect barber-shop harmonies throughout. An accapella highlight for me being “Scotland the Brave”. The musical is peppered with well-known songs such as Magic Moments, Catch a Falling Star, Love is a Many Splendored Thing and Three Coins in a Fountain.

The musical staging was flawless (Racky Plews) with a brilliant soft-shoe-shuffle number during the Finale Reprise.

It’s a very simple story with little characterisation of the performers, just a couple of personality traits here and there. And no final resolution to their journey. However, they do attain their goals and dreams, even if they had to die before getting them. This rather dark sub-text built into the musical is foregone in favour of presenting a great night out cabaret-meets-concert style of musical.

The Sound (Toby Burrow) worked great! Live (modern and wireless) microphones balanced well with the musician duo.

The lighting was just fabulous! Aaron Dootson created tableau after tableau of beautiful landscapes, lighting the Boys and the minimal Set with great colour choices, focus and musicality. His design mixed in classic looks with more modern subtle movements in a way that was so complementary to the production. A well-considered design scheme that easily transferred the production from concert and back to rehearsal without any ambiguity for the audience.

This is a wonderful 80 mins (no interval) in a wonderful beautiful theatre above a pub that has great dining! What’s not to love about a night out with friends seeing this toe-tapping high quality production for a very reasonable cost. Added bonus – you’ll feel good about yourself for supporting live theatre!

Photo Credit: Darren Bell

Cameron Burt – Frankie
George Crawford – Jinx
Christopher Short – Smudge
Alexander Zane – Sparky

Director – John Plews
Choreographer – Racky Plews
Musical Director – Ian Oakley
Lighting Designer – Aaron Dootson
Sound Designer – Toby Burrow
Associate Choreographer – Eddie Slattery
Casting – Pearson Casting
Producer – Katie Plews for Ovation

Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Highgate Village, London N6 4BD
Box Office: 020 8340 3488
Admin: 020 8340 4256
Press & P. R. – Katie 07831 227 675
Performances: Tuesday – Saturdays at 7.30pm
Sunday Matinees at 4.00pm
Saturday Matinee at 3.00pm on 26th June