Gananoque, ON, May 18, 2009 — The 1000 Islands Playhouse in Gananoque has opened their season with Forever Plaid running through June 13. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at the opening and has this review.
The 1000 Islands Playhouse opened their season Thursday night with a bang. There was not only an entertaining production of FOREVER PLAID, but also a pipe band and pre-show and post-show receptions for the enthusiastic opening night audience.
FOREVER PLAID, by Stuart Ross, has a flimsy plot, but it doesn't much matter. It's really an excuse for four guys to sing all the great "guy group" hits from the 50s and early 60s including "Undecided," "Moments to Remember" and "Three Coins in a Fountain." Killed in an accident on the way to what was to be their big break, the four high school friends come back from the outer cosmos to perform one last time and earn their plaid jackets. There you pretty much have it.
Dan Rider has designed a terrific set framed by a series of sparkly arches whose tops are centered with the inserts that were used in 45rpm records. The round center platform is a 78rpm record backed by the piano and four bright colored hanging trapezoids. There's even space on each side for audience members to sit in eye-catching silver chairs.
Tim Fort's lighting is fine, as are Jayne Christopher's costumes. Special kudos to Calvin Prescott and Rebekah Vandermolin for their great job with props, especially for the Ed Sullivan sequence.
As for the performers I must first mention Paul Harding, pianist extraordinaire. He does a wonderful job not only on the piano but also in his acting bit. The four young men all have good voices and, although in some of the group numbers at times the melody got lost, no doubt the blend will get tighter throughout the run.
Russell Tyson Clark is fine as Jinx, and does a good job on "Cry". As Francis, Sef Wood has a distracting habit of over-widening his eyes when singing, but does an excellent job on his monologue. For the first time I thoroughly believed the character.
Ben Kunder is very good as Smudge and on "Rags to Riches". He has a nice comic touch, using underplaying and dead-pan to good effect. The acting stand-out is Douglas Price as Sparkie. Not only is he a strong singer, but his character is believable from beginning to end.
Assistant Director Ramona Gilmour-Darling has done a nice job on the movement. I especially liked "No, Not Much," "16 Tons" and the Calypso sequence.
This is Sandy Thorburn's first shot at directing, but you'd never know it. He's come up with some great bits, among them the mic cover folding and the Calypso opening. The audience participation sections are handled smoothly and are great fun. The Ed Sullivan sequence is hilarious! I wished for a bit more character development, but as I said before, the script isn't much help. Mr. Thorburn has done his usual excellent job with the music. I particularly liked "Catch a Falling Star," an old favorite of mine.
This is a lively and nostalgic way to open a season. FOREVER PLAID features great old songs, four good singers and a first-rate pianist. What more could you want to get in the mood for summer?
On a scale of one to five the 1000 Islands Playhouse production of FOREVER PLAID gets four and one-third fish. For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.