Forever Plaid is Endlessly Amusing

Don Alden, John Bow, Andrew Foote, Scott McGowan

This may be the shortest review I've written about a Surflight show.

Surflight's production of Forever Plaid is a great show. Go see it and have a ball.

Why so short? Well, there's really not much to say about Forever Plaid. But I'll try. It starts with a somewhat strange premise. In 1964 a vocal group called Forever Plaid is  on its way to its first big break--a gig at the Airport Hilton's cocktail bar, The Fusel-Lounge. On their way there, their car is struck  by a busload of Catholic high school students who are on their way to see the Beatle's first US appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. The whole group is instantly killed. (The students survived.)

See what I mean about a rather strange premise? As the show opens the boys in the group, Jinx (Don Alden), Sparky (Andrew Foote), Frankie (Scott McGowan) and Smudge (John Bow) wander into the auditorium bewildered about where they are and why. After ascertaining from an audience member that the year is 2004, they realize they have been in a kind of musical limbo for 40 years. And now is their chance to give that one great performance of which fate had so cruelly robbed them.

Now when you think of sixties pop music what are the groups that come to mind? The Beatles? The Rolling Stones? Buffalo Springfield? It's easy to forget that the 1960s  were also the last gasp of a kindler, gentler brand of pop, exemplified by groups like The Four Aces, The Four Lads and The Crew Cuts. Forever Plaid is an affectionate send-up of these white bread, clean cut, descendants of the barber shop quartets of earlier generations.

There's no plot really. Just a superb performance of hits like Three Coins in the Fountain, Perfidia, Sixteen Tons, Shangri-La, Love is a Many Splendored Thing and more than a dozen more hits of the era. This genre was once called MOR (middle of the road, or as I once called it in the mid seventies "many old records"). I guess it was so named because it was deemed halfway between rock and roll and the "beautiful music" of acts like Percy Faith, Ray Conniff and Burt Bachrach that my dad listened to on WPAT in those days.

The music alone would be worth the price of admission. The songs are delivered with great comedic byplay and they're interspersed with even funnier business, including an hilarious bit that tries to compress a typical Ed Sullivan Show into about two minutes. I'm afraid anyone under forty will have no idea who Sullivan was, let alone get any of the references to Sullivan denizens like Bill Dana, Senor Wences and Topo Gigio. But for those of us who remember the bit is solid gold.

The four stars of the show all turn in really fine performances. Every one of them does broad comedy verging on slapstick to quite subtle stuff that was especially effective if you were in the front row like I was.  The little twitches and tics all of them portrayed added depth to their characterizations.  Scott McGowan not only played Frankie, he directed it too. And he did a great job.

The crowd went wild for it. I sat next to a woman who was so enchanted I thought she must be related to one of the stars. She not only laughed heartily but actually "awwwed" at the poignant moments.  All of us in the small crowd  leapt to our feet for a standing ovation immediately at the end of the show. Afterwords my seatmate mentioned that she had never seen the show before.

One note of caution. This short show has no intermission, so be sure you're comfy and relaxed by the time the show starts. Then just sit back, relax enjoy one of the best shows at The Surflight this year.

Hmm. I guess I had more to say than I thought I did.  Like I said, go see this show. I think you'll be talking about this one for a long time to come.

At the Surflight September 22 - October 2, 2004 at 8:00 pm; September 23, 26, 30 and October 3 at 2:00 pm.  No performances September 27 and 28.