But treats such as the well-oiled and cashmere-smooth American Heartland Theatre production of Forever Plaid make it clear that there will always be exceptions to these new rules. The third production of the show to be performed in Kansas City since the early 1990s provides enough evidence to suggest that Plaid may indeed be "Forever."
The setup for re-creating the white doo-wop stylings of The Four Aces and The Crew Cuts is comically morbid. En route to picking up their new plaid tuxedos for their first prestige gig, the members of the quartet Forever Plaid are killed instantly when they are broadsided by a bus of high schoolers on their way to see The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Having blithely ignored the onslaught of rock and roll that would have made the group obsolete, Forever Plaid is both literally and metaphorically plowed over by its musical usurpers. The play is the quartet's (and the audience's) two hours in limbo -- the gig that never was becomes the cash cow that is Forever Plaid.
Though the jokes about the group members' being dead for 37 years repeat as irritatingly as the acid reflux suffered by the character known as Smudge, the show is really about the joy they find in interlocking harmonies. And with Matthew Fletcher, Seth Golay, Joel Morrison and Don M. Simmons as the apple-cheeked boys, director Michael Vodde and musical director Anthony Edwards have no harder job than to shine a spotlight on their charming cast. Edwards begins at the piano with a few bars of something like Rachmaninoff, and then the resurrected foursome enters from the back of the house carrying candles and chanting Latin. But as soon as they douse the flames and alight onto Keith Brumley's aquamarine set, the funeral dirge becomes a rollicking wake.
What makes it all percolate so well is Vodde's seemingly unlimited imagination; in creating a distinct style and theme for each number (and, in turn, each guy's solo), the director prevents the audience from feeling as if it saw the same thing just moments before. The cast members are photogenic in their Doug Brown costumes, and they play boyishly with William Christie's props with just enough variation to make the show's couple dozen songs unusually unpredictable. The show is at once sweet and corny, like a state fair midway caught forever in a shiny block of amber. It's a Jurassic lark.
The second weekend of the run reveals how the ladies conspired to broaden JOB's audience; the Mexican Folkloric Dancers join the program, replacing the first weekend's production, Barry, Betty & Bill. "We sent out 32 letters," Brewster recalls of TBA's effort to invite other performance groups to piggyback on the new company, "and got one response -- from Maria Chaurand at the Guadalupe Center. Now we have a situation where people who come to see the plays will see the dancers, and the people who come to see the dancers will see the plays."
Prior to TBA's inaugural production, ardent JOB supporters will host a benefit for the space. Patrons of the April 1 show, a coproduction of CrossCurrents and the new collective KC Actors for Actors, will see original songs and sketches, which organizers say will "tackle all the great problems of the world: the 2000 election, the pardon scandals, jock itch, Liberty Memorial and a host of others."
Tickets for the benefit are $10 in advance at Jerry's in Westport or $12 at the door. TBA Players' tickets -- $5 for seniors and students, $8 for other adults -- are available through the Central Ticket Office at 816-235-2700.