Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Stage

The ever-popular 'Forever Plaid' comes to Stage West

Pick a day — any day; pick a time — well, almost any time. And you can bet that on that day and at that time, the little musical Forever Plaid will be playing somewhere in the world. That's how popular the show is with both professional and community theaters, to say nothing of audiences.

Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill opens its version of the show Thursday and continues for two subsequent weekends.

"This promises to be a fun show filled with oldie-but-goodie music," said Leanne Germann, director of the four-member cast.

When it made its off-Broadway debut in 1990, the 90-minute show was a forerunner of today's "jukebox" musicals. The plot is slight, but the music is plentiful. It's about four young men in the early 1960s who longed to become a close-harmony quartet in the style of the Four Aces and the Four Freshmen. Calling themselves the Plaids, they prided themselves on following a strict code of behavior and relentlessly practiced in a basement. After months of work, they finally got their big break — a gig at a local lounge.

Unfortunately, on the way to their show, they were all killed in a smashup with a bus full of young nuns who were, ironically, on their way to see the Beatles make their U.S. debut on The Ed Sullivan Show and usher in the era of rock 'n' roll, even as the Plaids' beloved four-part close harmony was fading into the sunset.

Skip to today, and through some harmonic convergence in the universe, the Plaids are being allowed to come back to Earth and do the show they were scheduled to do that fateful day back in 1962.

In between glimpses into their lives, they do 1950s and '60s classics like Sixteen Tons, Moments to Remember, Perfidia, Heart and Soul, Shangri-La and Love Is a Many Splendored Thing.

There are also homages to the Sullivan Show and its favorites — the plate-spinning guy; Topo Gigio, the little Italian mouse that became a superstar, thanks to repeated appearances on that show; as well as Perry Como (The Golden Cardigan); and 1950s manners and morals.

Playing the four singers are Ryan Bintz (HAMI as Billy Flynn in Chicago) as Francis — also known as Frankie — the group's leader, who suffers from asthma; Jamie Smeriglio (HAMI as Barfee in Putnam/Spelling Bee), as the shy high tenor Jinx, who gets a nose bleed every time he goes above a certain note; Jeff Germann (HAMI as Carmen Ghia in The Producers) as the cut-up Sparky; and Jason Yungmann (HAMI, Joseph in Joseph/Dreamcoat), as Smudge, the worrier with a chronic nervous stomach.

Forever Plaid was filmed onstage for a 2008 movie (mostly played on PBS). A sequel with a holiday theme, Plaid Tidings, came out in 2013.

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