Last year, we saw the first "cinecast" of a Broadway musical. The final performances of Rent were filmed and subsequently broadcast to movie theaters in September. The film was later released on DVD, and those of us who were deeply disappointed in the 2005 film version of Rent were thrilled to have this vastly superior version (read my review) to replace Chris Columbus's torpid document of this landmark show.
However, the cinecasts of Rent didn't do well in some geographic markets -- although the showing I saw in Boston was packed -- so there was a question as to whether other shows would receive the cinecast treatment.
But it looks as though the theatrical cinecast is still alive, at least for now. On July 9th, NCM Fathom will present a one-night-only 20th anniversary showing of Forever Plaid. The event will apparently include a pre-taped performance of the show, a live segment featuring original cast members, as well as a follow-the-bouncing-ball sing-along.
Um, really? Forever Plaid? That's the show that the movie-going public is crying out to see?
As you may know, Forever Plaid ran Off Broadway over four years in the early '90s, amassing a total of 1,811 performances. It's the story of a close-harmony men's singing group that dies in a car crash only to come back from the great beyond for one final shot at glory. The show doesn't have an original score, but instead features such song standards as "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "Love is a Many Splendored Thing." Since its Off Broadway run, Forever Plaid has become a regional and community-theater staple, and has been performed all over the world.
Which is one of the reasons that I'm skeptical as to the economic prospects of the cinecast event. Rent was an event. Sure, the show had toured extensively, but this was a chance to see the final performance of an important and popular show. I just don't see enough people getting excited enough about Forever Plaid to make it economically viable, but perhaps the producers know something that I don't about the show's appeal. I'll certainly see it, and buy the video should it come out on DVD. But I'm a musical-theater fanatic. In order to succeed, this event is going to have to appeal to a broader audience, and I'm sorry but I just don't see that happening.
UPDATE: The producers of the Forever Plaid event contacted me hoping to change my mind about the cinecast. I told the woman I spoke with that I was certainly open to the possibility that the show might actually be a fun time, but that I remained skeptical as to its economic prospects. She said I might be surprised at how many Plaid heads there are out there. Yes, that would certainly surprise me. But she promised to send me some press passes so that I could decide for myself. Hey, I'm an open-minded guy, and I have certainly changed my mind, or at least revised my views, on a number of shows that I've reviewed. Billy Elliot, Next to Normal, and In the Heights come to mind. But will the same happen for Forever Plaid? The cinecast takes place July 9th. Watch this space shortly thereafter to see if it will.