One-On-One with Four “Forever Plaid” Lads

“Forever Plaid,” forever friends—Original cast members (and our neighbors) Stan Chandler, Larry Raben, David Engel with N.Y.C.’s Daniel Reichard.

“Forever Plaid,” forever friends—Original cast members (and our neighbors) Stan Chandler, Larry Raben, David Engel with N.Y.C.’s Daniel Reichard.

There is harmony in our neighborhood. The eternal young men we remember from their long running super hit from 20 years ago live and play in our own back yard. Only Daniel Reichard (a star of the original “Jersey Boys”) is a New Yorker but he’s coming to town to join his Plaid pals for the one night only, big screen/stage red carpet event.
JJ: Daniel, what was it like filming the movie?
Daniel: I had an entirely different experience filming Plaid than the other three guys. They, along with Stuart Ross and James Raitt, are truly the original heartbeats of “Forever Plaid.” It was extremely challenging because I had to not only learn the show—including harmonies, staging and timing—but I had to play at their level. Stan, David and Larry are the true masters of this show, and it took everything for me to keep up with them. In the end, I am proud of what I do in the movie, and couldn’t have done it without their love and support.
JJ: What about doing the original musical?
Daniel: Getting in front of a live audience was nerve-wracking considering I had only a couple handfuls of rehearsals. Luckily, the characters we play are so damn nervous that I could just act like myself. In both the story of Plaid and the reality of my life, it was my first show!
JJ: Stan, what’s your pleasure in our community?
Stan: In this wonderful suburban neighborhood, I walk to almost everything. Sunday mornings, my wife Kirsten (the coolest woman on the planet) and I walk with our kids along Ventura Boulevard, with a stop at Peet’s and/or Jamba Juice, then on to the Artisan Cheese Gallery, followed by a an amble through the Studio City farmer’s market where we invariably run into friends. We finish with a walk home along the river-walk, and often make a breakfast of waffles with our “frienbors” (or great friends who happen to be neighbors).
JJ: How did “Forever Plaid” come together?
Stan: We all came to the piece via different routes. I was living in New York down on 14th Street, and had just done a reading of a new musical that was directed by Stuart Ross. A while after the reading, Stuart called and said, “I’ve got this piece that I’m working on. I don’t know what it is or where we would do it. Are you interested?” A couple of days later, I met up with a bunch guys at a rented rehearsal space to sing through some charts with James Raitt, the arranger and musical director. It was fun stuff! Since none of us had any money, I suggested we rehearse at my apartment, it had a bank of windows that turned into rudimentary mirrors at night when I lit up the the apartment. For three weeks, we drank beer, made each other laugh and put together about 50 minutes of material. Three weeks later, we got booked into a little supper club on the upper west side called Steve McGraw’s, and, starting on October 17, 1989, did one or two shows a week while we worked on developing more material, and incorporating it into the show. We officially opened on May 20, 1990. Between October and May, we took turns taking the tux shirts home to launder them, we made our own props, we created and printed up fliers and most of all, we cajoled and annoyed our friends to come and see the show. We all lost faith in the show at different times but were buoyed up by the other guys to hang in and keep doing the show. We sometimes played to extremely small houses, like eight people, so it’s especially satisfying to see the show grow from its incredibly humble origins to one of the highest grossing Off-Broadway shows ever, and now, WOW!, into a movie that we got to do!
JJ: Larry, how about your Plaid experiences?
Larry: I’m honored to return after the original Off-Broadway company, the production at L.A.’s Canon Theatre, and also on the West End in London (JJ: While in London, he performed in The Royal Variety show for Queen Elizabeth II). In 2002, it was great to be reunited with director Stuart Ross for the holiday sequel, “Plaid Tidings” at Pasadena Playhouse.
JJ: You spent the past year starring as Leo Bloom in the Las Vegas production of Mel Brook’s “The Producers.” What else do you love to do?
Larry: Directing, and I’ve directed numerous stagings of “Forever Plaid.”
JJ: David, I still feel the fun of working with you in the Musical Theatre Guild’s “110 in the Shade.” You starred (with Earl Holliman), and I was in the chorus. You are such a cheery, lovable and supremely talented guy. What are some of your favorite Broadway memories, besides “Forever Plaid?”
David: Appearing on Broadway opposite Carol Burnett in “Putting It Together, Seussical: The Musical,” playing Hanna from Hamburg in the original production of “La Cage Aux Folles” and the stage and film versions of “The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas.”
JJ: You are a five-time winner (!!!) of the LA Ovation Award. Can you please tell us some of the musicals you’ve appeared in?
David: Besides the role of Smudge in “Forever Plaid,” I did leads in “Crazy For You,” “The Full Monty,” “La Cage,” “Kiss Me Kate,” “Singin’ In The Rain,” “Children Of Eden,” “Dames At Sea,” “Little Shop Of Horrors,” “White Christmas” and Pasadena Playhouse’s newly re-envisioned “Can-Can.”
JJ: While checking the Internet (full of Plaid stories), I discovered that the AMC theaters in Burbank and Woodland Hills are offering the “Forever Plaid” event on July 9th. It took me a while to get my mind around this original happening. The event will feature introductions of the original cast, as well as creator/director Stuart Ross, and the musical director David Snyder. Then, the premiere of the filmed version of the musical, and concluding with a sing-a-long with the cast and Club Nokia audience. How fun is that! And Fred Willard will be there!
This novel entertainment form for all ages will tickle our memories, and give us a great new one.

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