“Forever Plaid” at Hopebox Theatre

by Liz

Thoughts from the Director/Choreographer

“Forever Plaid” is a jukebox musical packed with the four-part harmony guy group music of the 1950s. 57 years after four friends are killed in a car crash, they posthumously return from limbo to take the stage for one final show, to touch their dream, and figure out if they can stay or if it’s time to move on.

Typically in community theatre, a production crosses its fingers that enough men will audition. We had talent to spare at the audition for our show, a lovely and infrequent problem. Musical Director Anthony Buck and I speak often when we work on casting a project together about finding not just the people who would be great in the roles, enjoyable to work with, available for the schedule, and so on, but specifically about finding the people who are “meant” to be in the show.

Rehearsing live theatre during Covid necessitated some specific adaptations. The cast rehearsed wearing masks, highly inconvenient in a show with 23 musical numbers, four-part harmony, and choreography. “Forever Plaid” has some interactive moments that we adapted to allow for social distancing between the cast and the audience. I’m really happy with our safety protocols but some of the workarounds were tricky to arrive at. Still, if you haven’t seen the show before, I doubt you’ll think anything of it. If you have seen the show before, I think you’ll enjoy what we’ve done with it anyway.

This is a popular show, but I’m of the opinion that it’s still widely unknown and underrated. There are surprising depths and meaning to the show but they often get missed as the audiences, casts, and production teams alike assume the show is simply a fun nostalgia piece.

To me, the show is about reaching for your dreams, not achieving them when and how you thought you would, and coming to realize what dedicating your life around something means in the end. Most of the songs in the show are about love, but each character admits to having basically no personal experience with romance. The grand idea of Love is an important theme in the show, and by the time the Plaids sing their final number, “Love is a Many Splendored Thing,” I believe they aren’t singing about romance at all.

Between the practicality of public health protocols, and the prevalent references in the script to being hit broadside by something out of your control that wiped out your ability to pursue your dream, it made utmost sense to me to acknowledge the Coronavirus pandemic in the reality of the show and set design. “Forever Plaid” is most often staged in an intimate and glitzy setting, with cabaret lights, a baby grand piano, four bar stools, slender microphone stands, and a lot of polish and shine. My husband, Bryan Christensen, who received a BFA in Set Design from the University of Utah, agreed that our show wouldn’t take those traditions as givens. Our “Forever Plaid” is set in a shut-down Hopebox Theatre, with posters from the 2020 season with “canceled” and “postponed” emblazoned across them. Some lighting instruments, buckets of paint, and old trunks dress the set. Many in the theatre industry, audience and actor alike, can relate to the Plaids when they talk about the disappointment of having their show taken away from them.

As a choreographer, this is my second crack at “Forever Plaid.” I’ve thoroughly enjoyed moving away from the bar stool, microphone stand-dictated choreography of convention to see what else I can communicate through bodies about the characters and the show.

Hopebox is an unusual space. The stage itself is shaped similarly to a baseball diamond with home plate being downstage center, the audience is seated between home and first (stage left) and third and home (stage right). There’s also a pole holding up the booth right at center stage. I enjoy choreographing in this space because of the unique challenges and opportunities presented by that floor plan.

If you feel comfortable wearing a mask sitting in an audience of an intimate black box theatre with other attendees to enjoy the magic of live theatre, want to hear beautiful music from a cast of four comedic and sincere male performers, and enjoy comedy with surprising depth and tenderness, then come see “Forever Plaid,” at the Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville before the show closes on April 10, 2021.

Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville is a non-profit community theatre with the mission to bring hope to families battling cancer through the performing arts. A portion of ticket sales and 100% of donations go straight to the Wall of Hope recipient and their family. “Forever Plaid” is honored to have Joshua French as our Wall of Hope recipient. Joshua is undergoing treatment for acute myeloid leukemia and has recently received a bone marrow transplant.

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