Reviewed by Will Stackman
There's a good deal of hokum at the heart of the American Theatre, no more so than in its musical theatre traditions. After all, the first real American "musical" was a version of Longfellow's "Evangeline" spiced up with popular tunes done here in Boston by two Harvard grads. "Forever Plaid" has no such ambitions, but is squarely in that tradition. The show could have been more, but Stuart Ross's limited vision stayed with the material and the situation. The fairly well-developed if stereotypical characters would be much more effective given a hint of a plot.
That said, the four guys doing this show in the subterranean venue at SSL II may be the hardest working ensemble in Boston after the Blue Men. Logan Benedict, Miguel Cervantes, Andrew Gifford, and Adam Sousa get more mileage out of this '50s material than it really deserves. Their skillful renderings are a reminder of the joys of close-harmony. As expected, music director Jonathan Goldberg, who enjoys himself mightily at the piano as well, produces a first rate sound from one and all, backed up by David Lambiasco on bass. There's actually quite a lot of musical sophistication to this parody, enough so that one keeps hoping for things to break on through. But our visitors from the other side remain oblivious.
There are glimpses of originality in many numbers, such as an entire Ed Sullivan Show done in under four minutes to "Lady of Spain", a Calypso medley of Belafonte chestnuts, and a remembrance of Perry Como. The show is true to its material, suggests the changes about to happen on the music scene and across the country, but never quite makes the connection, though several performances have their moments. The Plaids are endearing, if somewhat frustrating due to the author's singleness. This nostalgia is reinforced in this production by director Dale Standish, an old Plaid hand, who hews quite close to the original, especially the moves. But musical theatre thrives on remembrance, and there's certainly room on the dance card for a show so well done. Its neighbor, "Menopause", much more of parody, seems to be thriving on the same energy.
The cabaret atmosphere of SSP II, a former restaurant, is the perfect venue for such a show, though some Plaid "bread crumbs" along the drive way would make it easier to find. If the space proves successful, less temporary lighting installation would help plus seating on more than one level. Some of the smaller musical shows proliferating around the country might do quite well there, not to mention some older miniatures from the repertoire. Paul Theriault's set shows how even a limited space can be transformed.