"Always & Forever" is a slow-jam love bomb

On the love train: the cast of "Always & Forever"
On the love train: the cast of "Always & Forever"
by Lauren B. Photography
Always & Forever opened last night at Illusion Theater, a two-hour revue of 1960s and 70s R&B hits performed with a live band that, among other vitrues, has to be one of the great date shows of the year. Soulful, passionate homages to eros? Hey, I think you have something in your eye--let me help you out with that, just hold still.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around a barbershop owned by the happily married Durius (

T. Mychael Rambo

). His customers are the neighborhood Lothario Leviticus (

Dennis Spears

), a mailman with a tempestuous marriage named Quenton (

Julius C. Collins III

), and a youngster in the thrall of puppy love called Jahmal (Jackson Hurst).

That's about as far as we get, in terms of story, which is really fine--refreshing, really, in the era of the paper-thin jukebox musical. Instead of trying to tack on a story, writer Richard D. Thompson delivers a few asides, a few, jokes, and then gets out of the way and lets the songs speak for themselves.

These are four very good performers, with pipes that do justice to the material. Spears slays "If You Don't Know Me By Now," while Rambo uncorks a stirring "When a Man Loves a Woman." Collins is a powerhouse in his own right, particularly on numbers such as "Have You Seen Hr," while Purdy delivers a sweet "In the Rain."

It's simply one song after another, with four-man choreography and a band led by Sanford L. Moore that captures the soul and fire of romantic tunes that make even a broken heart sound like cause for celebration. The object of your affection will surely be pleased if you bring her or him to the show--"Signed, Sealed, Delivered" (with any luck at all).

Always & Forever plays at Illusion Theater through October 3. For information click here.

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