Forever Plaid Only Seems Like It at Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert

Nathan Turley, Stephen Erek, DeVal Johnson, and Devon Johnson are Forever Plaid.
Nathan Turley, Stephen Erek, DeVal Johnson, and Devon Johnson are Forever Plaid.
courtesy of Hale Centre Theatre

I've seen two separate companies' productions of Forever Plaid (2.007, if you count the time someone accidentally played Plaid's audio intro at the beginning of The Taffetas). So although I am too young to remember swooning at those late '50s/early '60s guy-group close harmonies, I've heard them sung live in swoon-worthy fashion.

Although the current Plaid cast at Gilbert's Hale Centre Theatre was not at that level vocally the night I caught their performance, they're charming fellows whose acting, audience engagement, and sense of fun eventually overcame their and/or the sound system's shortcomings. Eventually (by halfway through Act I, after about seven lackluster songs). Hang in there.

Despite my previous Plaidventure, this was my first exposure to a lot of the between-number banter and what passes for character development in the scripts of revues like this. I can understand the urge to trim some of it (the constant anxiety, nosebleeds, and asthma attacks of a few characters become tiresome in a hurry), but much of it is pretty cute.

I particularly enjoyed a montage of samples of The Plaids' stylings of songs from other genres and for special occasions, including a Beatles homage ("She Loves You" is unsurprisingly but amusingly ineffective as a doo-wop cover.)

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DeVal Johnson stands out in the four-man cast. To be fair, his character, Sparky, is the one who's supposed to encourage the other three to make the most of their final big break from beyond the grave (trust me -- not important to explain). In any case, DeVal (there are two Johnsons -- that is, two people named Johnson -- in the cast) is sweetly adorable in the way Rob Schneider was in the better moments of Deuce Bigelow, Male Gigolo (but genetically more favored in the looks department).

DeVal's such a handsome man, in fact, that I wished his white dinner jacket were the right size, but it makes sense that the "real" Plaids would have had to make do. The gentlemen's cummerbunds, though, don't appear fully constructed -- they slip around and resemble cheap sashes.

That's the kind of thing I would not obsess about had the ensemble sucked me in from the opening chord. Pistons. Firing. I'm just saying.

Hale has moved one section of seats down onto their arena stage floor, freeing up one side of the theater for a backdrop and platforms to better suit FP's retro style and small live band. If you're accustomed to the Centre Theatre configuration, you might want to confirm with the box office just where your seats are going to be.

Forever Plaid continues through Saturday, July 10, at Hale Centre Theatre, 50 West Page Avenue in downtown Gilbert. Tickets are $22 and $24; order here or call 480-497-1181. One thing you might want to note about Hale that I've not mentioned here before is that, unlike most Valley theaters, they don't present Sunday performances -- so keep that in mind if you're making plans.

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