Swift Creek Mill's revival of "Forever Plaid" is a little bit of heaven on earth. 

Perfectly Plaid

"Forever Plaid"
Swift Creek Mill Playhouse, Colonial Heights
7:30, Sunday - Wednesday
Through October 9th
$18.50 - $30
748-5203

No instrument is as beautiful as the human voice. And if you arrange four well-tuned voices in a tight harmony, the result can be music sweet enough to make angels cry.

That's just what Tom Width, director at Swift Creek Mill Playhouse, has done in his latest production. The four heavenly voices he has recruited belong to Larry Cook, Paul Deiss, Fernando Rivadeneira and Brian Vaughan, who play an intrepid 1960s singing group called "Forever Plaid," which is also the name of the play. Width enlisted this same quartet five years ago when "Plaid" ran for a box-office-enriching six months. Now, as then, each actor stands out as an excellent solo singer. But it is when the men's voices align into a single, powerful chord, that the whole theater seems to vibrate with energy.

While the beauty of the Plaid's singing could make you cry, the earnest awkwardness will probably have you convulsing with laughter instead. This is the kind of show where you miss lines of dialogue because the audience is guffawing so loud and long. In scenes that range from silly to subtle, the distinctive Plaid choreography serves as the perfect comic complement to their vocal precision.

The high-concept explanation for the appearance of a group from the '60s here in the '90s has nothing to do, thank goodness, with the popularity of the Backstreet Boys. It seems that the Plaids were killed in a car accident on the way to their first big gig at the Airport Hilton Cocktail Bar. Through some cosmic folderol, they are granted one last earthly performance before being called up to the big hereafter hotel lounge. And what a performance: nearly 30 songs from the innocent pre-Beatles days, everything from the rousing "Crazy 'Bout Ya Baby" to the ethereal "Catch a Falling Star." Also included are some inspired bits of lunacy like the reproduction of an entire Ed Sullivan show in 3 minutes, 11 seconds.

In a team that works so well together, it's hard to choose standouts. Still, Deiss deserves special recognition for doubling as the show's musical director. He has polished to a high gloss the harmonic talents of his crew of fellow actors. Deiss also gets his share of vocal highlights, starting off the show with his heartfelt delivery of "Three Coins in a Fountain" and later making a real song out of the infamous piano exercise "Heart and Soul."

Cook often uses his husky baritone for its comic effect, but shows the full range of his talents when he cuts loose in the soaring "Rags to Riches." Rivadeneira does a sly slow-build, ending in a dazzling crescendo in "Cry." And for pure and pretty pop-star vocals, Vaughan delivers the goods in "Perfidia" and "Catch a Falling Star."

Providing robust backup for the Plaids is the able duo of Elliot Bromley on piano and Mike Moore (who alternates with Greg DeBruyn) on bass. They make some beautiful music, but they are no match for those divine voices. If you are looking for a little bit of heaven on earth, make your way to "Forever

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