FOREVER PLAID, Rodgers Memorial Theatre, Centerville, through Feb. 11 (298-1302). Running time: one hour, 45 minutes (one intermission).

CENTERVILLE — Considering that folks around these parts have had the opportunity to see at least a couple dozen productions of "Forever Plaid" over the past few years, you'd think that yet another edition would be stale.

But in the hands of a good director-choreographer, and with the right combination of talent, it can be as fresh as it was when the off-Broadway revue first burst on the scene.

While it may have influenced the current spate of "jukebox musicals" on Broadway, "Forever Plaid" remains one of the most perfectly written revues — plenty of wonderful tunes from the 1950s and early '60s, and just enough banter to give each of the four singers individual personalities.

Rodgers Memorial Theatre has a very cool cast: Jay Henderson as asthma-prone Frankie, Shawn Maxfield as worrywart Smudge, Jared Morgan as slightly frightened Jinx (who is prone to having nosebleeds when he sings the higher notes) and Jerry Allman as the quartet's clown, Sparky.

These guys have all performed in previous versions of "Forever Plaid," but not all of them together until this go-around. (Allman has switched from Smudge to Sparky.) And Penelope M. Caywood, who directed and choreographed, has given them some clever new steps and injected fresh energy into the proceedings.

Those familiar with the show (and they are legion) will not be disappointed. All those great songs are still there — "Three Coins in the Fountain," "Undecided," "No, Not Much," tributes to Perry Como, Calypso, "The Ed Sullivan Show" (in three minutes, 11 seconds), and the working man's medley, "Sixteen Tons" and "Chain Gang."

Morgan, as the nervous, just-plain-scared Jinx, has one of the best songs with his version of Johnny Ray's "Cry." Starting off timidly, about three-fourths of the way through he cuts loose and really nails it with a finale that brings down the house. His "Lady of Spain" is also terrific, keeping up the momentum during the "Ed Sullivan Show" tribute.

One of Maxfield's best bits — in addition to his hilarious comic segment when he's suddenly called on to entertain the crowd while the others are busy — is his solo in "Rags to Riches."

Henderson shines on "Heart and Soul" and "Matilda," and Allman does a swell job with his tribute to "Mr. C," with "Catch a Falling Star" and "Perfidia."

One slight drawback on opening night was Henderson's rapid-fire dialogue. He sometimes raced so fast that he was tongue-tied (and once got the names of his fellow singers mixed up). Also, Allman left his tartan scarf on during the quick back-stage change into their spiffy new tuxedos.

A nice touch with this production is the addition of visuals and projected images. The back-up band — pianist Tracy Hales, bassist Ian Camp and percussionist Kenton Jenson — was also right on the mark.

Unlike most Rodgers Memorial productions, this show is single-cast.


E-mail: ivan@desnews.com