Drury Lane's 'Forever Plaid' reminds us why this jukebox tuner remains an audience pleaser

“Forever Plaid” - ★ ★ ★ ½

In a program note for Drury Lane Theatre's revival of “Forever Plaid,” director/choreographer Paul Stancato expresses his hope for audiences: that they leave the Oakbrook Terrace theater a little happier than when they arrived.

Judging from the smiles and the head bobs over the course of this 90-minute jukebox salute to music popularized by 1950s and 1960s “guy groups,” I imagine Stancato got his wish. I know that my toe tapped for the entirety of this sweet but never schmaltzy tuner about a singing group known as The Plaids, who were killed in a car crash on their way to their first big gig and reunite in the afterlife for one last musical hurrah.

This may be the ideal show with which to resume in-person performances during a pandemic (acknowledged with several hand sanitizer references). For one, the cast is small - four singer/actors and an instrumental trio - making it easier to conform to COVID-19 precautions than larger musicals. For another, audiences know this show (which premiered off-Broadway in 1989), and they like it as evidenced by its initial, yearslong run at Chicago's Royal George Theatre that ended in 2001, along with frequent revivals and a holiday version called “Plaid Tidings.”

But fondness only goes so far. The cast has to deliver. And Drury Lane's quartet of Bryan Eng, Michael Ferraro, Yando Lopez and A.D. Weaver deliver beautifully as Sparky, Frankie, Jinx and Smudge - “good guys” who appreciate tight harmonies and simple love songs. Besides fine voices and affable demeanor, this quartet is sincere. There is nothing disingenuous about these four pals, whose affection for each other is genuine and whose belief in truth, justice and harmony is unwavering.

The sweet harmonies of Michael Ferraro, left, Bryan Eng, Yando Lopez and A.D. Weaver propel Drury Lane Theatre's "Forever Plaid," directed and choreographed by Paul Stancato. Courtesy of Brett Beiner Photography

Accompanied by the onstage trio of music director/pianist Valerie Maze, bassist Chuck Webb and drummer Jim Widlowski, the singer/actors deliver breezy versions of “Crazy 'Bout Ya Baby” and “Perfidia.” Lopez's tenor rattles the roof on the torchy “Cry,” while Weaver's bass shakes the foundation on “Sixteen Tons.”

A delightful manic energy propels The Plaid's three-minute version of TV's “Ed Sullivan Show” (complete with plate spinners, singing nuns, jugglers and animal acts). But the big payoff comes near the end with the showstopping “Shangri-La”/“Rags to Riches” medley followed by the luxurious “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing,” a final confirmation of the pleasure that comes from a ballad beautifully sung.

And that is why “Forever Plaid” will always leave audiences smiling.

Location: Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, (630) 530-0111,

Showtimes: 1:30 p.m. Wednesday; 1:30 and 8 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 and 6 p.m. Sunday through Nov. 7

Tickets: $59-$72, dinner-theater packages available

Running time: About 90 minutes, no intermission

Parking: In the lot adjacent to the theater

Rating: For all ages

COVID-19 precautions: Patrons must wear masks except when eating or drinking

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