‘Plaid Tidings’ wraps up the holidays in charming nostalgia
BY BETTY MOHR November 28, 2012 4:24PM
Scott Stratton (left), Rod Thomas, Jonathan Wagner and Frank Paul star in "Plaid Tidings" at Theatre at the Center in Munster, Ind.
♦ Through Dec. 23
♦ Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster
♦ Tickets, $38-$42
♦ 836-3255; TheatreAtTheCenter.com
Updated: January 1, 2013 6:12AM
The swinging quartet belts out a score of 35 songs, kicks up a dancing storm and whips up a sweet concoction of frothy laughs. Not bad for four guys who are supposed to be dead.
The male singing group died on their way to performing a concert in 1964 when their car was hit by a bus filled with Catholic teens. The teens survived, but the wholesome foursome didn’t. In creator Stuart Ross’s original production of “Forever Plaid,” the clean-cut guys return to Earth for a one-night concert they never gave. Now in “Plaid Tidings,” the holiday sequel, that, under William Pullinsi’s sharp direction, is even better than its predecessor, the songbirds return to spread nostalgic holiday cheer at Theatre at the Center in Munster.
Once again, the crooners in plaid tuxedos return to Earth. Why? Because Rosemary Clooney asked them to do another concert and bring back hit songs from the 1950s and 1960s. It’s a pretty flimsy excuse for a show, but it works because of talented, silky-voiced performers — Frank J. Paul as Jinx, Scott Stratton as Smudge, Jonathan Wagner as Sparky and the always charming Rod Thomas as Francis. The group swings to Nicole Miller’s groovy choreography and hits all the right notes with an array of oldies-but-goodies songs.
For those who recall the life-affirming uplift of mid-20th-century America, there’s plenty to enjoy here what with a doo-wop “Sha-Boom,” a steamy rendition of Peggy Lee’s “Fever,” a rap version of “Twuz The Night B-4 Xmas,” and plenty of Christmas favorites, including “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”
“Plaid Tidings” is a delicious and hilarious stroll down memory lane. Fans of Perry Como will love the video projection of the crooner’s Saturday night television special. Como is more handsome than I remember, and his standards “Strangers in Paradise” and “Dream Along with Me” never sounded so good. An homage to the iconic “Ed Sullivan” television show, delivered at breathtaking speed, is a comedic riot. Indeed, while the four performers croon with velvety smoothness, they also offer spirited laugh-filled antics. A prime example is Thomas’ funny bit on the sociological significance of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” pointing out that the outsider wasn’t appreciated until other reindeers could make use of him.
Throughout the production, the Plaids make fun of William Underwood, who plays a mean piano and does a great job of musical direction. Underwood is assisted by Ethan Deppe on percussion and Jamie Martinez on bass.
Of course, those who grew up during what some consider a “golden age of music” are going to love reliving a time when songs were about love, had great melodies and lyrics that could be understood. But youngsters who aren’t familiar with those innocent times will also enjoy the show — if only to discover the joy of marvelous days gone by.
Betty Mohr is a local freelance writer.