ABOUT THE PLAY
Forever Plaid is an off-Broadway musical revue written by Stuart Ross in New York in 1990 and now performed internationally. Within two years of its premiere, it became a favorite of amateur and professional theatres around the United States. The show is a revue of the close- harmony “guy groups” (e.g. The Four Aces, The Four Freshmen) that reached the height of popularity during the 1950s. Personifying the clean-cut genre are The Plaids.
Once upon a time, there were four guys (Sparky, Smudge, Jinx and Frankie) who loved to sing. They met in high school when they joined the audiovisual club in 1956. Discovering they shared an affection for music and entertaining, they got together and dreamed of becoming like their idols—the Four Aces, the Four Lads, the Four Freshmen, the Hi-los and the Crew Cuts. They rehearsed in the basement of Smudge’s family plumbing supply company. It was here they became Forever Plaid—a name that connects traditional values of family, home, and harmony.
Then it happened. On February 9, 1964, en route to pick up their custom-made plaid tuxedos, they were driving in their cherry-red 1954 Mercury convertible and rehearsing their big finale when they were slammed broadside by a school bus filled with eager Catholic teens. The schoolgirls were on their way to witness the Beatles making their U.S. television debut on the Ed Sullivan Show and miraculously escaped injury. The members of Forever Plaid were killed instantly. It is at that moment, when their careers and lives ended, that the story of Forever Plaid begins. The play opens with the boys returning from the afterlife for one final chance at musical glory.
The musical opened May 20, 1990 at Steve McGraw’s in New York City after engagements at The West Bank Cafe, The American Stage Company and The Wisdom Bridge Theatre. It surprised many with its popularity and New York run of over four years. Musical arrangements, vocal arrangements, and musical direction were by James Raitt; the show was written, directed, and choreographed by Stuart Ross. The original cast included Jason Graae (Sparky); Stan Chandler (Jinx); David Engel (Smudge); and Guy Stroman (Frankie).
Author, Stuart Ross has this to say about the play: “Through the power of harmony and the expanding holes in the ozone layer, in conjunction with the positions of the planets and all the other astro-technical stuff, they are allowed to come back to perform the show they never got to do in life. And, after having completed their mission of harmony, our men in plaid must return to the cosmos.” Hopefully, through this production, their dreams will live on forever.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stuart Ross was born September 10, 1950, the son of George (an attorney) and Mae (a secretary) Ross. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1972 from Clark University and received additional training and education at the University of Manchester, England and the Circle in the Square Theatre School with Nikos Psacharopoulos. A prolific writer, director, and choreographer, his most memorable and successful play is certainly Forever Plaid, which has played, and continues to play, across the country and around the world. He created and directed the original production in 1980 at the old Downstairs Cabaret in Rochester. He has since directed productions across the United States and in Japan, Canada, and England.
His first off-Broadway directing work was at the helm of The Knight of the Twelve Saucers in 1976, which ran for six performances. Since then he has been the writer and/or director for many successful plays in New York City, including The Heebie Jeebes at the Westside Arts Theatre, Not-So-New Faces at the O’Neal’s Upstairs Theatre, Sharing at the Equity Library Theatre, Lunch Girls at the Courtyard Playhouse in 1984, Hollywood Opera at The Ballroom, Secrets of the Lava Lamp at the Manhattan Theatre Club, and Creeps. Other directing work includes Breaking Up; Nasty Little Secrets; Conrack; It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman; and many others.
Mr. Ross served for six seasons as a director and dramaturge for the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Conference. Other plays he has written include Fun with Dick and Jane and the Tony Award- nominated musical Starmites. More recently he has written Tea with Bea, directed three productions for HBO’s New Writers Project, and, he and Mark Hampton wrote and staged The Boswell Sisters, a new musical at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Conference for the National Musical Theatre.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
For director Erik Stein, Forever Plaid is about harmony and his belief that the world is better when we live it together. In a world that is full of discord with twenty-four hour news, unkind reality shows, politics, constant status updates and insulting comments all over social media, Stein is thrilled to help four genuinely nice guys bring a little happiness and harmony to the world. What does one mean by harmony? If you think about a single voice in a harmonic chord, each part seems a bit odd alone. The baritone line is a bit out of place, the bass line could be considered boring and the tenor line a little thin without any support. Still, when you put them together with the melody, there is potential for magic. The heart of Forever Plaid is the collective resonance of these four guys. Individually, some might consider them odd, boring, weak and awkward but together they are magnificent. They create something beautiful that cannot be explained.
Erik is fascinated by the artistic mystery, the magic of music. A beautifully executed four-part chord creates overtones. Erik remarked that while he’s sure there is a scientific reason for it, to him it is magic. Tones are heard that are not being sung. Four men are singing four notes, yet additional notes are heard. It doesn’t always happen, it has to be the right four notes blending together and supporting each other. The magic of collaboration is something that Erik loves as well - the process of working with designers and watching their artistry. In the initial design process, Erik discussed his belief that restraint breeds creativity. The creative team was challenged to create an environment where unexplainable magic can happen. Erik said he enjoys learning from the designers about all of the details that build the technical elements of the production. His goal is to nurture an atmosphere that allows artists to do their best work. Again, life is better when we live it together.
The idea of forever or eternity is certainly important for any production of this musical. Erik says, “There are some who say that harmony only lasts as long as a breath. I think that’s cool. That means it is now. It is special and unique and only happens in this moment. Yet, there are some who say sound can travel forever, that it just keeps expanding and expanding and eventually becomes part of the cosmos. I think that is really cool too. So, I am embracing both. We get to experience something unique and magical right now. This moment will never happen again, yet it will live on forever.”
When looking at The Plaid’s earthly journey, Erik imagines four unique men who spent a lot of time alone - awkward, socially unskilled - who were looking for a place to fit in. When they find each other, they discover their greatness in togetherness. At the opening of the show, in the afterlife, they enter alone and afraid, until they find each other and remember how terrific they are together. They examine their lives and they discover that they didn’t just have wonderful lives; their lives were wonderful, because they lived them together. They realize that they belong with each other and their lives suddenly make sense. Together they can achieve the unimaginable, the unexplainable. The Plaids create magic in the moment and ascend into the heavens to live on forever.