Jim Gardia, Executive Director of Broadway by the Bay, approached me a few months ago with the idea of opening their new season at the Fox Theatre with a production of “Forever Plaid”. Jim is a great friend from Los Angeles, where we met during our long run of the show in Beverly Hills and Jim was our general manager.
We worked it out where I could supervise this production for Jim and Artistic Director Brooke Knight, so I came in for casting, finding four great actor/singers in the Bay area, spent a week teaching them the fundamentals and music of the show with my musical supervisor Steven Freeman, and turning the cast over to Chris Crouch, who has done the show for me (all four roles!) several times over the last six years. I continue to stay involved in all aspects of the production through the preview performances and opening.
Q: It’s been over twenty years since you started developing Forever Plaid. You’ve worked many different sides of the production since then (developing it, performing, directing, etc…). What has been your favorite moment of this 20-year process? Why?
I think two things among hundreds of wonderful experiences stand out. The first would be opening the show on the West End in London at the Apollo Theatre. There we were, with a “small” off Broadway show, and we were a big hit in England, appearing on all of the television and radio talk shows and even getting the opportunity to perform for and meet the Queen and her family.
The second would be the first time I directed the show, which was in the round in my home town of Ft. Worth, Texas, and I was lucky enough to be in it as well with my three castmates as a reunion a year and a half after we had closed in London. We sold out for three weeks, in a two thousand seat in-the-round theatre, performing as if we had just opened. It was an unmatched thrill.
I played the role of Frankie on and off for about four years, with breaks for other shows, and I have directed probably twenty-five productions. It stays “fresh”, or current for me, when I say yes to doing it again, by approaching the piece honestly and simply so that the four actors who are doing it can find their characters and relationships and own them for themselves and for the audiences they are sharing the story, music and humor with. The play is such an interactive and “real time” experience that the show is NEVER dull or repetitive. The audience from night to night always assures a new experience. As a director, the piece means a great deal to me and it is always exciting to discover it again and anew with a new cast.
Q: What’s your favorite song or moment in Forever Plaid?
For me, it is the final song, the coda, really, “Love is a Many Splendored Thing”, which is a great chart by our original musical director/arranger, James Raitt, and is the culmination of an evening-long series of great moments, music, and laughter.
Q: Out of all of the productions of Forever Plaid that you’ve seen/directed, what’s been the craziest or funniest thing you’ve seen happen on the stage?
Whenever you ask the audience into your live performance, anything can and does happen. If I started with one, I would be at it all night. Come to the Fox starting March 31, 2011 and I will bet there will be plenty to choose from. It is that kind of show.
Q: Forever Plaid is a theatre favorite (there are 23 active productions happening right now in the US). Can you give some words of advice to any potential performers that will be in upcoming productions of Forever Plaid?
Keep it simple and keep it honest. These guys are just guys who love to sing and love singing with each other. Learn the music, in that style, talk to each other, talk to the audience, listen and respond. Easier said than done, somtimes, but that’s the key to the heartfelt and funny musical journey of this work of love and commitment that the guys and I started out to take what seems like yesterday.
Q: Currently, there are two spin-offs from the original Forever Plaid — The Sound of Plaid – the new Glee Club Version and Plaid Tidings. Do you plan on working on any more “spin-offs”?
I have directed “Plaid Tidings”, and “The Sounds of Plaid” is a great way for large groups to present this music. Who knows what lies ahead for this material?
Q: What are you working on next?
I am working on an high profile performance of “The Guys”, the two character play about a freelance writer and an NYC fire department captain after 9/11. The performances will be this June with two stars playing the roles first done by Bill Murray and Sigorney Weaver in New York a month after the attacks. It will be presented at a theatre, the Mountain Playhouse, which is six miles from the site of the future memorial for Flight 93 in Western Pennsylvania, and presented by the official committee for that memorial, The Friends of Flight 93.
I am also preparing for an upcoming production of the farce, “Boeing-Boeing” and I am developing a new play about the singer Peggy Lee with music from Leiber and Stoller.
You can keep up-to-date with Guy Stroman by checking his website.
Broadway by the Bay’s “Forever Plaid” @ Fox Theatre, Redwood City
The 2011 season begins with the fabulous foursome of Forever Plaid, the musical-sensation that has been winning over audiences for the last two decades. Fantastically funny, and timelessly tuneful, this clean-cut musical revue features 50s-style crooning that will leave you in awe and hilarious antics that will have you laughing yourself to tears.
Only 12 performances.
Book by Stuart Ross
Music and Lyrics by Various Artists
Music Continuity Supervision and Arrangements by James Raitt
Entire Production Supervised by Guy Stroman
Supervising Musical Director Steven Freeman
Musical Director Ken Brill
Director Chris Crouch