"Forever Plaid" at the Brown County Playhouse is Stuart Ross and James Raitt’s loving tribute to the fifties, the great songs, the TV shows, the guy groups and the innocence.
Director George Pinney has assembled a quartet of personable singers led by music director and pianist Jeff Tanski and he has created an intimate cabaret atmosphere for the show. The plot of "The Plaids" is mostly an excuse to flesh out the personalities of the group and string together nearly thirty songs. The group was an up and coming–or at least coming–quartet on their way to their first big–or at least bigger gig–when their car was destroyed by a bus from a catholic girls’ school on its way to see the Beatles. They’ve been returned from wherever and given a chance to play that final concert for the Brown County audience.
"Forever Plaid" opens with an airy rendition of "Three Coins in the Fountain." From there it is a non-holds-barred survey of what in retrospect was a wide-ranging decade of music. There’s the soulful "Chain Gang," the calypso flavor of "Day-O," the country sound of "Sixteen Tons," the romance of "Moments to Remember," and even the early Beatles "She Loves You."
Throughout "Forever Plaid," the very energetic and active direction by George Pinney offers what could in less sensitive hands be camp, but here the innocence and the sheer good will of the group prevails.
Highlights included a madcap theatre piece with snippets of all the old favorites from the Ed Sullivan show, a member of the audience joining the group at the piano for the high part of Hoagy Carmichael’s "Heart and Soul," and a sing-along on "Mathilda."
Peter Stoffan, John Armstrong, Tom Hershner and Matt Rhodes were The Plaids. Each had his solo moments though the focus was mostly on the close harmony work of the group. It’s a tribute to the skill of the quartet that the audience got behind their efforts even the silliest ones and cheered the successes. The opening night crowd gave the cast and the show a standing ovation.
Performances of "Forever Plaid" at the Brown County Playhouse continue Wednesday through Saturday nights at eight and Sundays at three through July 3rd.