REVIEW: Forever Plaid, St James Studio ✭✭✭✭


Forever Plaid
St James Theatre Studio
8 April 2016
4 Stars
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Forever Plaid is an affectionate look at close harmony vocal groups that were popular in the fifties. It’s a goofy, but sublime trip back in time, but there’s a twist. The Plaids, all school buddies are dead, killed by a bus full of Catholic school girls as they made their way to their first big gig, they have returned for One Night Only.

Bonkers I know, if ever there was a flimsy excuse for a review this is it, but what makes Forever Plaid work are the performances of The Plaids themselves and the care and attention that has gone into the numbers presented.

The Plaids are Jon Lee (Jinx), Keith Jack (Sparky), Matthew Quinn (Smudge), and Luke Striffler (Frankie). These guys would be perfectly at home in an episode of Glee. Each with his own foibles, they are a strangely charismatic lot, but when they sing – it’s just divine. These are four ordinary guys, working run of the mill jobs, but when they step up to the microphones and become The Plaids, the magic happens. These are guys who sang for the love of it, and everything they sing is imbued with that love.

Book Now for Forever Plaid at St James Theatre

With a song list including Three Coins In The Fountain, Moments To Remember, Cry, Sixteen Tons, Catch A Falling Star, Heart and Soul, and Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing, this is a timewarp through some of the great songs of the period. Not so much a jukebox musical as a themed revue, Forever Plaid is a loving look back. It gently pokes fun at this group of nerds, but leaves the audience with no doubts about their considerable talent.

Even the Musical Director is bought in on the act, as Anthony Gabriele is enlisted to play Bob, the slightly pompous and assured union piano player, who happens to come with the venue on the night the Plaids return. Gabriele provides a flawless, rich accompaniment to tight vocal arrangements. During the show The Plaids talk about ‘the blend’ and as the show progresses you understand exactly what they mean. The musicianship onstage both vocal and instrumental is considerable.

Director Grant Murphy ensures that the links in Forever Plaid are never boring. Using the talents of this ensemble, Murphy gives Forever Plaid, a fluidity of movement that quite often gets omitted from revues such as this.


Following its run in London, Forever Plaid will play the Radlett Centre and the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, but for the moment the Studio at The James’ Theatre has found a show that perfectly showcases this wonderfully intimate space.

Forever Plaid will be a two-hour trip down memory lane for some, and for others will be an introduction to a musical genre driven by sheer vocal talent. It does once again though point out the need for small venues capable of taking long-running Off-Broadway style shows. There is no doubt in my mind that this show could run. I will certainly be returning for more of The Plaids!


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