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‘Always & Forever’ crackles with talent & energy at the Illusion

Calling “Always & Forever” a “jukebox” musical is only telling part of the story. The piece, the creation of Richard  D. Thompson,  Sanford L. Moore and Gary Q. Lewis, is a pure celebration of song —­ in this case, the soul and funk music of the late 1960s and early 1970s. There’s a setting ­ — an African-American barber shop in the middle 1970s — and a whiff of a plot, but the show is mainly a showcase for a quartet of very talented performers to literally strut their stuff to some great music of the past.

The piece was first created in the middle 1990s, but is back for a revival at the Illusion Theater in Minneapolis. On stage, T. Mychael Rambo, Dennis Spears, Julius C. Collins III and Jackson Hurst look at their characters ­ — a happily married barber, a serial lover, a heartsick post office worker whose marriage is on the rocks, and a teen experiencing the first inklings of romance ­ through the prism of love — and more often than not, let the likes of Smokey Robinson, Sam Cooke and dozens of others speak for them.

The performers just crackle with energy, be it on their group numbers ­ complete with the dances of the time ­ or in their solo spotlights.

“Always & Forever” moves with brisk speed, though it loses a bit of excitement after the intermission, not regaining it until midway through the second act. Apart from that, it’s a fine way to spend an evening.

“Always & Forever” runs through Oct. 3 at the Illusion Theater, 528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis. Tickets are $18 to $35. For information, call 612-339-4944 or visit online.

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