''Forever Plaid,'' the off-Broadway musical currently being done at Washington's Ford's Theater, doesn't have much book, but it hardly matters.
It's the songs that count in this instance, and because the show is mostly that, songs, it is almost inevitable that you like it. Of course, you have to appreciate the music. It's not rap, and it isn't acid. These are the very mellow songs of the '30s, '40s, '50s and early '60s, numbers made popular by Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Harry Belafonte, The Four Aces, The Four Lads, The Four Freshmen, Tennessee Ernie Ford and others.
''Forever Plaid'' begins with ''Three Coins in the Fountain,'' continues along with ''Gotta Be This Or That,'' ''Undecided,'' ''Moments to Remember,'' ''No, Not Much,'' ''Cry,'' ''Sixteen Tons,'' ''Chain Gang,'' ''She Loves You,'' ''Day-O,'' ''Heart and Soul,'' ''Rags to Riches'' and ''Love is A Many Splendored Thing.''
There are others, all of them worth hearing again, if you enjoy this kind of music. It is certainly easy on the ears and the mind.
There are only four characters in the show. They are members of a fictional quartet, Forever Plaid, singers who died in early 1964 when their car was broadsided by a bus filled with girls headed for New York to see the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.
The four members of Forever Plaid are back on Earth doing this ''farewell'' concert and enjoying it. They've forgotten some of their movements, but they manage, and as they do, tell us how they got their name, how they dressed and where they played.
''Forever Plaid'' is exceptionally funny when the four young men give their two-minute impression of the Sullivan show. It is also on the mark when Como is given a vocal and visual salute.
Elsewhere, the book is occasionally smart, sometimes sophomoric but all too often just passable.
None of this, however, really matters. The show lasts little more than 90 minutes, and the songs, as delivered by Paul Binotto, Greg Jbara, Neil Nash and Michael Winther, sound as good as they did. In some cases, they sound better than they did. It is Binotto who does ''Cry,'' and Johnny Ray can only wish he sounded this good.
All of them have strong voices, though it may be a little late for this kind of act.
''Forever Plaid'' is a return to a nicer, sweeter, more innocent song age. Sociologically, we may never return to it, but the songs in this show allow us the luxury of remembering. ''Forever Plaid,'' which has been done off-Broadway and elsewhere, will remain at Ford's through June 2. This is a Ford's Theater production. The talent is the best around.
** Four young men, who in life were members of a group called Forever Plaid, return to Earth for a ''farewell'' concert.
CAST: Paul Binotto, Gregory Jbara, Neil Nash, Michael Winther
DIRECTOR: Stuart Ross
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes without intermission
TICKETS: (202) 347-4833