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Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013

The Stackner Cabaret Turns Plaid

‘Forever Plaid’ mixes classic songs with comedy

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It’s the ’60s and a crooner boy band—The Plaids—are on their way to their first big show. However, fate has a strange way of intervening when a school bus full of Catholic school girls on their way to see the Beatles crashes into The Plaids’ roadster, killing the group and sending them on a one way trip to the Big Gig Upstairs.

In Forever Plaid, now playing at Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Stackner Cabaret, the foursome gets a second chance, in 2013, to finally play that missed show. And how fortunate for the audiences—we also get the chance to hear some great classic songs done up right with full throttle harmonies and a storyline filled with a charming innocence of times long gone. The Plaidsters—Sparky (Adam Estes), Jinx (Paul Helm), Frankie (Nate Lewellyn) and Smudge (Anand Nagraj)—mix strong vocals with comical interludes, including their “3-minute-41-second” version of all the acts that appeared on the Ed Sullivan show and their post-pubescent nervousness around the very attractive (and talented) pianist portrayed by Colleen Schmitt.

The Rep’s JC Clementz directs with a fine eye toward the humor of Stuart Ross’ book, mining the harmonic convergence of his actors, especially lighthearted tunes like “Gotta Be This or That” and a wonderful doo-woppish cover of the Beatles “She Loves You.” This foursome also does the serious stuff just as well, hitting its mark with the finale, “Love is a Many Splendored Thing.”

With this highly entertaining production of Forever Plaid, Heaven can wait. This brief interlude from the afterlife is 90 minutes long (No intermission. Hey! It’s the afterlife). But the close-knit harmonies and musical remembrances of more innocent times are timeless.

Forever Plaid runs through Dec. 29, at the Stackner Cabaret, 108 E. Wells St. For tickets, call 414-224-9490 or visit milwaukeerep.com.