Forever Plaid by Stuart Ross. Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate, London NW6 4 ****. William Russell

The Gatehouse is back with a heavenly production of the 1989 musical Forever Plaid directed with style by John Plews. It is set in the 1950s and tells four young men, Frankie, Jinx, Smudge and Sparky who dream of becoming a close harmony singing group stage their final concert. On the way to their first big date they are killed when a school bus smashes into their van, but they have come back from the dead to stage that never took place final concert and tell the audience about their hopes and dreams. Basically it is just another juke box musical but it proves far better than that. The fifties tend to be remembered for rock and roll, but there were other musicians singing quite different songs like Perry Como and Dean Martin.Coins in the Fountain to Love is a Many Splendored Thing by way of Chain Gang and Shangri-La, and the boys give their all, individually and in close harmony. Smudge (Christopher Short) is the one who wears specs and has problems with the group dance moves, Jinx (George Crawford) is the nervy one who gets nose bleeds, Sparky (Alexander Zane) is the cute kid life and soul of the party boy , and Frankie (Cameron Burt) is the nice one nobody remembers but quite likes. They perform the routines devised by choreographer Racky Plews to perfection – including the mistakes that the hapless Smudge keeps making, like not knowing which shoulder his plaid should go over – and there is no faulting their close harmonies.The songs are terrific, ranging from Three It has been done before at the Gatehouse several years ago, and this production was due to open in December last year but the pandemic stopped it in its tracks, so it seemed to John Plews ideal to revive it for this re-opening. He was right. Add a terrific performer on the keyboard (Ian Oakley) and a vibrant double bassist (Jess Martin) to provide a first rate backing to the group and you have as good a night as you will find anywhere in town.

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