HUDSON — In an era when staggering zombies and aspiring rock stars dominate movies and TV, the 1990 musical Forever Plaid should fit right in. After all, the four main characters have been dead for decades, killed in a car wreck on the way to their first big professional gig back in the 1950s, and they are back for a second chance to show their singing prowess.
But it's definitely not creepy, nor a copycat. Composer/lyricist/playwright Stuart Ross' four singing Plaids wear Ralph Lauren-style dinner jackets, neat 1950s haircuts and display excellent posture — not rags, rotting skin and hunch-shouldered staggers. And they sing songs with real words that the audience can understand and wouldn't offend either great-grandma or a convention of conservative ministers.
That's the joy of Forever Plaid and probably why the Show Palace Dinner Theatre is bringing it back for at least the fourth time (1999, 2001 and 2008 and perhaps one or two I've overlooked). It's a crowd pleaser, sweetly clever and entertaining from the first note to the last. Though those of us around in the 1950s and '60s will probably enjoy it most, know every word to every song — Moments to Remember, No, Not Much, Perfidia, Sixteen Tons, Heart and Soul, plus dozens more — and get every "insider" joke, kids will likely love it, too, simply because of the music and mood.
The story starts as four clean-cut fellows from the '50s suddenly, through some cosmic convergence, find themselves returned to Earth for one single night to do the show they were scheduled to do nearly a half-century earlier. Instead, they had been stopped by their fatal encounter with a bus load of Catholic girls on their way to see the Beatles make their American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show (perhaps a metaphor for how the Beatles unwittingly killed close-harmony singing by guy groups like The Four Lads, The Four Aces and The Cleftones).
The guys recall how they came together, how their families supported their efforts, how they loved Perry Como and the Sullivan show, all the while getting back to speed so they can do their own show before their night is over.
Each one has something unique to contribute. Sparky (Matty Colonna, Altar Boyz at Venice Theatre Cabaret) is the group clown, injecting humor into every situation. Jinx (Nick Rishel, the policeman in the Show Palace's Hello, Dolly) is the shy one with recurrent nosebleeds. Frankie (Dick Baker, Chip in Putnam County Spelling Bee for American Stage in the Park) is the crooner who melts and breaks hearts. And Smudge (Brendan Cataldo, theaters in New York, Pennsylvania and Florida), who has a nervous stomach, worries about everything and is often earnestly confused.
The director is Steven Flaa, who has not only directed the show several times before, but has also played in it many, many times. Bill Cusick is music director and onstage pianist, joined by bassist Irv Goldberg, a familiar face not only at the Show Palace, but also at many other Florida theaters.