12/27/2020 FOREVER PLAID BroadwayHD
MOMENTS TO REMEMBER
Forever Plaid is a seemingly-forever popular revue that has been gracing stages since its 1989 Off-Broadway premiere. Featuring a “Harmony Quartet” of clean-cut working class guys, it both parodies and pays affectionate homage to quartets popular in the fifties and sixties, such as The Four Aces, The Lettermen, The Four Freshmen, and The Ink Spots (which has to be the most racially insensitive name for a group ever). It also spawned a holiday sequel, Plaid Tidings,
I have a lot of affection for this show, not only because of the rapturously gorgeous songs it covers, but also because of its goofy back story. The Plaids, you see, are actually dead, killed enroute to their first “big” gig when their car was struck by a busload of parochial school teens (*) enroute to Manhattan for the Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Which makes their style hopelessly square in a musical world that would have passed them by. Somehow, they are being allowed to return to this theatre to finally perform that long delayed concert.
So we have four guys with hokey ’50’s nicknames (Sparky, Jinx, Smudge, and Frankie) who blithely accept their outcast state because, durn it, now they get to do what they always dreamed of doing. And who can’t appreciate that, and even envy it a little?
In 2009, a movie version was made featuring (some of) the original cast and directed by Stuart Ross, creator of the original show. It doesn’t matter that these barely-adult guys are played by barely-middle-aged singers because, durn it, they still have that naïve earnestness and youthful energy that can overcome nosebleeds, indigestion, death, asthma, and cordless mikes that they never knew in life but take to as if they spent the interim afterlife in a hotel bar or bowling alley lounge. It is these performances that make this movie , newly available on BroadwayHD, such a joy to watch and experience, even if you have seen it countless times before (as I have, since I designed and ran lights for Marietta Theatre Company’s production a few years back).
And it’s the songs, classic and catchy numbers from the late fifties and early sixties, that turn the nostalgia engine up to full. Hits such as “Three Coins in a Fountain,”: “Shangri-La,” “Cry,” “16 Tons,” “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing,” and, of course, “Moments to Remember” are performed in exquisite four-part harmony and share the program with tributes to the Caribbean music fad of the era, to Ed Sullivan, and to all the private functions groups like this entertained. More obscure songs like “Perfidia,” “Gotta Be This or That” and “Crazy ‘Bout you Baby” are given equal attention. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Plaid concert without the requisite rendering of “Scotland the Brave.” A couple numbers have been cut – most noticeably the Perry Como tribute and its “Golden Cardigan” digression, but what remains is the most agreeable, most tuneful, most Plaid-full experience you can have while isolating home alone (or with your designated pod-mates).
So, before I fade back inter the cyber-ether, let me toss out shout outs to the cast – Daniel Reichard (Frankie), Larry Raben (Sparky), David Engle (Smudge), Stan Chandler (Jinx), and David Hyde-Pierce (voice-over narration). They are the reason to watch this wallow in squareness and nostalgia.
Forever Plaid will definitely give you many moments to remember!
-- Brad Rudy (BK Rudy@aol.com @bk_rudy #ForeverPlaid #BroadwayHD
* Supposedly “a busload of virgins from Our Lady of Harrisburg.” As a Harrisburg native, I have to take exception to this – the only Catholic school in this heavily Protestant city is (or was then) Bishop McDevitt. Discretion prevents me from judging the accuracy of the “Virgins” description.