On Stage

Forever Plaid

Adoration and the afterlife

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

James Dean died in a tragic automobile accident in 1955, but the actor has never been forgotten. The same goes for actresses Grace Kelly and Jayne Mansfield—both of whom were in deadly car wrecks when they were at the either at the height of their fame, or were so well-known their names were already a part of the modern lexicon.

But what happens when talented people expire before they get noticed by the world at large? Do they live on in the memories of those who saw them share their skills before their untimely demise, or do their bright lights forever dim?

This conundrum is at the heart of the musical Forever Plaid, which Skagit County’s Theater Arts Guild will present to the public starting Fri., Sept. 15 and continue showing weekends through Oct. 1 at the Conway Muse.

The play takes place in 1950s, when a burgeoning guy group comprised of four friends—Sparky, Jinx, Smudge, and Frankie—are on their way to their first big show to share their sweet harmonizing skills (think the Four Freshmen). They’ve put in a lot of work on their sound since meeting in high school, singing anywhere people will have them (family gatherings, proms, supermarket openings, etc.).

Finally, they’ve landed a sweet gig at the cocktail bar at the Hilton, and the “Plaids” are feeling pretty good about their prospects. That changes when their vehicle is broadsided by a school bus full of Catholic schoolgirls on their way to see the Beatles. Sadly, the fellas all die.

Or do they? Through some sort of ozone layer alchemy—and the power of harmony, natch—the Plaids are allowed to come back to life to perform one more time. They take the opportunity to shine, belting out songs such as “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing,” “Chain Gang,” “Heart and Soul,” and “Shangri-La” before returning to the cosmos.

To make Forever Plaid believable, a strong cast is needed not only to sing and dance, but also to convey the passion of performers who know they have just one chance to make an impression.

Audiences can rest assure they’ll be in capable hands. The crooners consist of Harold Hill (recently seen in Anacortes Community Theatre’s production of The Music Man, Matt Bianconi (featured last year in TAG’s Mary Poppins), Jason Leander (a talented singer who’s reprising his role as Smudge), and T.J. Anderson (a Bellingham-based talent who appeared in the Mount Baker Theatre’s rendition of the show last year).

When you drive to the Conway Muse to see the guys do their thing, make sure you stick to your own lane. After all, you don’t want to be responsible for running the Plaids off the road, causing them to miss their big gig.

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