Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Forever Plaid
42nd Street Moon

Also see Patrick's recent reviews of Hairspray and Julie Benko: Stand By, Me

(Edu Gonzalez-Maldonado, Kevin Singer,
Matt Skinner, and Justin P. Lopez

Photo by Ben Krantz
In a world that seems to be ever more complex, more fraught with conflict, more stressful, with threats to stability and peace in seemingly every corner, it can be healing to be able to shut off the noise, take your seat in a darkened room, and let some talented people give you a respite from all that–even if it's only for 90 minutes. Such is the case with 42nd Street Moon's production of Forever Plaid, a somewhat strange–but nonetheless charming–revue of sorts, featuring a quartet of harmonizers singing songs from the 1940s, '50s, and '60s.

What makes Forever Plaid a strange sort of revue is that its characters are all ghosts. The Plaids, you see (as created by Stuart Ross, with music continuity, supervision and arrangements by James Raitt), were headed for a gig when their car was broadsided by a bus full of Catholic schoolgirls on their way to see the Beatles make their U.S. debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show." The accident serves as a metaphor for how music was changing at about that time, with rock 'n' roll taking over the world of music, leaving more staid, "square" musicians like the Plaids (and acts like them, such as The Four Aces and The Four Freshmen) in a jumbled heap of wreckage by the side of the road.

But for some unexplained reason, the four Plaids find themselves back in the world of the living, sixty years after, in order to give one last performance before fully transitioning to the afterlife.

For an hour and a half, The Plaids run through a series of numbers in various styles, but all pre-Beatles (save for their somewhat Midwestern take on "She Loves You," which they sing as "she loves you yes, sirree"), including "Catch a Falling Star," "Day-O," "Papa Loves Mambo," "Sixteen Tons," "Three Coins in the Fountain," and more than a dozen others besides. When they perform "Heart and Soul," they recruit a member of the audience to play the "top" part of the song on piano, and have a little bawdy fun in their recruitment efforts, asking the audience if they "like to be the bottom" or would they "prefer to be on top?"

Despite its decidedly un-hip flavor, this production of Forever Plaid engages its audience on multiple levels, primarily due to a talented cast displaying tight, precise harmonies, and Brittney Monroe's imaginative choreography.

The cast–Kevin Singer as Frankie (the ostensible leader of the Plaids), Justin P. Lopez as Sparky, Matt Skinner as Smudge, and Edu Gonzalez Maldonado as Jinx–are almost uniformly terrific. Singer plays Frankie with an earnest energy befitting his role as leader. Justin P. Lopez tends to fade into the background a bit, but his Sparky is always there to support his bandmates. Skinner gives Smudge a wonderfully geeky sort of mien, becoming sort of the uber-square of the group. But perhaps the most impressive member of the quartet is Maldonado's Jinx. Though a bit shy (and prone to nose bleeds), Jinx is the source of much of the comedy in Forever Plaid. It doesn't hurt the show that Maldonado also has a sweet tenor that fools you into thinking it's no more than that–sweet–until he suddenly releases the beast within when he belts.

The other star of the show is the moves choreographer Monroe has created for the lads. Angular and dynamic, Monroe's steps keep the action moving. Despite her boys mostly being tied to their mic stands, she keeps giving us new approaches and new tableaux, heightening the visual interest of the show. (Kudos also to Justin Kelley-Cahill for his retro-'50s set.) She (and director/music director Daniel Thomas) use choreography to reveal aspects of character. Smudge, for example, is always the odd man out, often getting the steps backwards before being gently corrected by Frankie.

Bottom line: if you're in the mood to step back into another time, leaving the anger and division of the outside world behind, the cast and crew of Forever Plaid will help you escape, at least for a while.

Forever Plaid runs through May 5, 2024, at 42nd Street Moon, Gateway Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco CA. Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:00pm, Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 6:00pm, and Sundays at 3:00pm. Tickets are $40-$78. For tickets and information, please visit, or call 415-255-8207.