FOREVER PLAID

Reviewed By Jacqueline Gerber in The State Journal-Register, 1/13/2001
reprinted with permission

'FOREVER PLAID' a fun-filled showcase of classic songs

FOREVER PLAID, which opened Friday night to a capacity crowd at the Springfield Theatre Centre, proves that good songs, well sung, never grow old.

Created from the fertile and very funny mind of Stuart Ross, the 90 minute musical from 1990 brings back a tunesome foursome from the early 60's who met with untimely deaths on the way to their first big gig. Dressed in white jackets and cummerbunds, they perform the concert they never got a chance to give.

With a nod to the close-harmony styles of the Four Freshmen and Four Aces, the Plaids croon classic songs such as Three Coins in the Fountain, Shangri-La, Sixteen Tons and Love is a Many-Splendored Thing.

The whole premise is that four clunky guys who would tank in the stag line have a passionate zeal for harmony. Never mind that they're sickly and have murky social graces. Never mind that the only letters they ever won in high school were A-V (for audiovisual crew). Never mind that much of the humor is cheesy. It's pure fun from start to finish.

Presented by the STC and Gordon Productions, the show repeats the latter's 1999 New Salem production, with some improvements. Not only was the quartet of Greg Floyd, Gus Gordon, Ed MacMurdo and Steve Williams in sterling voice opening night, but the addition of a bigger stage and a proscenium gives the singers a real set on which to flesh out the stage business.

And there's a lot of it. From tropical sets to the three-minute Ed Sullivan Show, the Plaids exploit every bit of humor lurking in the culture of the New Frontier. In the Sullivan spoof alone, MacMurdo imitates a trained seal, flutters about as the Lady of Spain and eats flame.

In addition to the winning vocals and pinpoint harmony, the show's high points included Gordon's hammy sing-along coaching in the calypso number, Floyd's mike-bending solo in Cry, Williams' discussion about records, and MacMurdo's lead vocal in Perfidia.

Music was provided by Becky Garretson at the piano and the many-hatted Dick Garretson on bass. Floyd played the accordion. Gordon directed.

The subtly stated message of FOREVER PLAID is that the Beatles and the British Invasion prematurely snuffed out the cultural impact of these groups.

All too often, the singers of popular music become etched in the public's mind to the neglect of the composers and lyricists who created the material. So it was a revelation to read in the program that the rather sentimental Magic Moments was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Who would have thought that the legendary American composers Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser wrote the ubiquitous Heart and Soul, or that Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) was co-authored by the actor Alan Arkin.

Consider this: On a nostalgic weekend when Springfield hosts the Winter Dance Party with impersonators of demised musicians Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper, not to mention that downtown is teeming with its annual influx of imitation "Elvi," it bears repeating that songs of the past endure only if someone cares enough to perform them.

FOREVER PLAID continues tonight at 8, Sunday at 2 p.m., and Jan. 19-21.

BACKSTAGE PASS

Reviewed by Phil Funkenbusch in the Illinois Times, January 18-24, 2001.

Meanwhile, Gordon Productions production of FOREVER PLAID is better than ever this time around. Having seen it in New York, Chicago, Peoria, St.Louis, this one tops them all. Gus Gordon, Greg Floyd, Steve Williams, and Ed MacMurdo achieve something that I've never seen in any of the other productions: they never go over the edge. It's like a tightrope walk. The show- in the wrong hands - could be completely overdone. These actors nail every single hilarious comic moment, but at the same time there is something touching underneath it all. And for anyone who remembers watching the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights, FOREVER PLAID brings it all back in a big, show-stopping way.

Dick and Becky Garretson perform the music and they have as much fun as we do. Call for tickets for remaining performances (523-0878). At press time we learned that an extra performance has been added for 2 p.m. Saturday, January 20. All seats are general admission; no reservations are being taken.

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