.To Die For

Jukebox musical featuring hits of the '50s plays in Napa

Musical zombies rise from the dead to sing an evening of 1950s pop standards.

Let me try that again.

On Feb. 4, 1964, the Plaids, an eastern Pennsylvania-based vocal quartet, were headed for a major gig at the Fusel-Lounge at the Harrisburg Airport Hilton when their cherry-red Mercury was broadsided by a bus full of Catholic schoolgirls. The girls, who escaped unscathed, were on their way to see the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.

The Plaids went on to that Great Performance Hall in the Sky—or at least the green room of the Great Performance Hall in the Sky. Rather than spend an eternity waiting to “go on,” they make their way back to earth to give the concert that never was.

That is the plot upon which Stuart Ross and James Raitt hang 24 musical standards in their very popular jukebox musical Forever Plaid, running through March 3 at Napa’s Lucky Penny Community Arts Center.

Frankie (F. James Raasch), Sparky (Scottie Woodard), Jinx (Michael Scott Wells) and Smudge (David Murphy) were high school friends who dreamed of musical glory. Following the path created by ’50s versions of what we now refer to as “boy bands” (the Four Lads, the Crew-Cuts, etc.), they formed the Plaids and specialized in four-part harmonies.

And that’s what you’ll hear over the Michael Ross-directed show’s one hour and 45-minute running time. “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Chain Gang” and “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing” are just some of the 20-plus songs performed by the crisply costumed gents (courtesy Barbara McFadden) with matching choreography by Woodard. Music is nicely performed by a trio consisting of music director Craig Burdette (keyboards), Quentin Cohen (drums) and Alan Parks (bass).

The guys are good, with each one getting a solo shot to go along with the group work. Their stock characters (the shy one, the funny one, etc.) banter with each other between numbers and amusingly engage with the audience. The comedic numbers are particularly well done, with the show’s highlight being a three-minute recreation of The Ed Sullivan Show, though it helps to have some familiarity with that show.

The same can be said for the music. Yes, it’s a trip down memory lane, but if toe-tapping, hand-squeezing and perpetual grinning are any indications, Forever Plaid hits all the right notes with an audience willing to make the trip.

Rating (out of 5): ★★★½


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