Monday, December 6, 2010

PLAID TIDINGS: A True Holiday Delight


Plaid Tidings
Jason Heil, Michael Winther, Leo Daignault and
David Brannen. Photos by Henry DiRocco.


The “Lads in Plaid” are back and everything is four-part harmony heaven in Plaid Tidings – A Special Holiday Edition of Forever Plaid onstage now at The Old Globe in San Diego. This is the delightful holiday follow-up tale of Sparky, Smudge, Jinx and Frankie from Forever Plaid who met in high school, formed their own squeaky clean singing group, and then lost their lives when they were involved in an accident with a busload of Catholic school girls en route to see “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

In Plaid Tidings the boys are transported from the great beyond back to earth for the holidays and, spurred on by a heavenly phone call from fellow angel Rosemary Clooney, they decide that this must be their big chance to spread some cheer by manifesting their über dream…their very own Christmas television show.

The show is pure fun from top to bottom and if you’ve never experienced the Plaids’ special brand of humor then, by gosh and by golly, this is your chance to return to the innocence of a simpler time and watch as four of the good guys do their best to help the world be a better place. It’s the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit from writer, director and choreographer Stuart Ross.

The cast includes two former Old Globe Grinches - Leo Daignault as the nervous, nosebleed-prone but absolutely endearing Jinx (he also originated the role of Jinx in Plaid Tidings at Pasadena Playhouse) and David Brannen as Jinx’s mischievous step-brother Sparky. Jinx can only be convinced to sing by pretending they are still rehearsing in Smudge’s dad’s basement using giant plungers as microphones in a gorgeous version of “Life Could Be A Dream," and though Sparky is a clown on the outside, his story of the Christmas Cardigan and how the Plaids almost sang back up to Perry Como is as heartwarming as they come.

They are joined by Jason Heil as Smudge, the worrier of the group who can’t see without his glasses (yes, there’s mileage and laughs to be had there, especially as he stumbles, literally, through “Let it Snow”), and Michael Winther as Frankie, the humble leader of the group who always keeps the boys on track, even though his asthma tends to act up when things get a little too rambunctious. His hysterical monologue and attempt at singing “Rudolph the Red- Nosed Reindeer” is a revelation of insight into the life of a great reindeer and as Frankie says with all sincerity at the end of it, “Rudolph, you’d have made a great Plaid.”

Musically the foursome is in top form, and the arrangements done by James Raitt, Brad Ellis, Raymond Berg and David Snyder are sheer perfection. Among my favorites were a beautiful four-part version of “The Christmas Song,” a comedic laugh-out-loud “Besame Mucho” featuring Jinx, a fun audience sing-a-long “Matilda, Matilda” (she take my money and go Christmas shopping), and a fantastic scat Christmas medley that opened the second act.

Plaid Tidings

And it goes without saying that their Ed Sullivan Show medley brings down the house, their hand bell number “Carol of the Bells” is a ringer with the audience, and the hilarious hip hop “Twaz Tha Nite B4 Xmas” features the boys’ bodies possessed with sound of a new kind of music. Musicians Steven Withers on piano and Tim Christensen on bass complete the musical sound.

According to program notes, Stuart Ross wrote Plaid Tidings following 9/11 after being approached by the Pasadena Playhouse. Previously resistant to making a sequel, which he felt was something made for the movies, he finally decided to instead create a holiday version of Forever Plaid, which has evolved into the production now playing at the Globe. Happily, it is just what we need to regain the optimism and spirit of a season that reminds us the world can be a better place if we only help make it that way.

Make sure you get your heaping helping of holiday cheer as Plaid Tidings continues its run in the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre at The Old Globe through December 26th. For tickets go to
www.theoldglobe.org/ or call (619) 23-GLOBE.

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