So here’s the thing:
When a silly play is done with heart, innocence and a definite passion for the material, who’s gonna complain?
And that’s exactly what you’ll find with “Forever Plaid,” Arizona Onstage Productions’ current offering.
The premise is roll-your-eyes ridiculous: It’s the early 1960s and four young men are on their way to give a concert at the Airport Hilton cocktail lounge. It will, they are sure, be the definitive concert; one that will send them into the stratosphere.
Instead, it is a car wreck that sends them there. So now, many years later, these geeky kids who sing four-part harmony with a heavenly precision are given a chance to land on Earth one more time to perform a concert to end all concerts.
What isn’t silly is the talent of the four actors in this production. Brian Levario, Daniel Gilmore, Daniel Lopez and Jeremy Vega sing together as though they’ve done it all their lives.
The music is so incredibly, well, square. “Three Coins in the Fountain.” “Moments to Remember.” “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing.” Songs that defined the straight-laced ’50s (as opposed to those that defined the rock ‘n’ roll ’50s — Elvis, Chuck Berry and the like).
Square, sure, but in the hands of these performers, lush and lovely, too.
When the music isn’t seducing us, the geekiness of the individual (and collective) Plaids is. Playwright Stuart Ross infused each with an awkward-teen sensibility. Jinx (Levario) gets nosebleeds when he hits the high notes; Francis (Vega) is the quiet leader who hopes his asthma won’t kick in and crimp his style; Smudge (Lopez) is a worrier, and Sparky (Gilmore) imagines he is a bit of a Lothario and trusts his retainer won’t spoil the illusion.
Director Kevin Johnson underscored the innocence necessary to make us love these guys, and the tight harmonies that make us swoon.
Each of the actors has his moments to shine, and they take advantage of them. But you never get the sense there is a spotlight hog among them — they are a unit when they sing.
Levario has impressive acting and singing chops. Gilmore is smooth and funny and bursting with talent; Vega is a natural on stage, and Lopez has a voice that demands attention.
“Forever Plaid” is sweet without being cloying, funny without trying too hard, and is packed with music that reminds you of young love, Perry Como (there’s even a bit with a Como-esque cardigan) and that once, a long, long time ago, there were songs with legible lyrics and sublime harmonies.