Zachary Scott Theatre Center's charming production of Plaid Tidings, the sequel to the hit musical revue Forever Plaid, proves you can never have too much of a good thing
Reviewed by Barry Pineo, Fri., Nov. 24, 2006
Zachary Scott Theatre Center Groten Stage, through Dec. 30
Running Time: 2 hrs
More than a few years ago, Zachary Scott Theatre Center produced Stuart Ross' Forever Plaid, a musical revue consisting of mellow, popular songs from the Fifties and Sixties framed with the story of four somewhat nerdish friends forming their own singing group and harmonizing just for the sheer joy of it. Tragically, the group is killed in an accident when their car collides with a bus of Catholic teenagers, but lucky for them, they're sent back to Earth to perform the show they never got to do in life. Zach's original staging proved so popular that it ran for a year.
Fast-forward to 2006. It's said that you can never have too much of a good thing, and in this case, the saying is apt. As with most sequels, this one is a rehash of the original, as the Plaids have been sent back to Earth once again and have to discover the true purpose behind their release from heavenly confines. But as with almost any musical revue, it isn't about the story; it's about the music, and it's the music and what supports it that's really the star of this show. While Bill Akey as Sparky, the smart aleck; Kevin Farr as Jinx, who's so nervous that he suffers from nosebleeds; Steven Michael Miller as Frankie, the all-American boy; and especially Charles Brown as Smudge, the klutz, all have something to offer individually, the beautiful harmony they provide as a group is what really stands out, as well as what they do in numbers like "Sh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream)," which they transform into a dance with microphone-sized toilet plungers. This being a holiday show, mixed in with medleys of songs from the original are numerous Christmas favorites, the most successful of which, surprisingly enough, is "Twuz Tha Nite B4 Xmas," a hip-hop rendering of the famous poem. Throw in a phone call from Rosemary Clooney and a performance by Perry Como with the Plaids as backup, and you've got a quaintly nostalgic trip down a wintry memory lane.
But that's not all. Director Dave Steakley has proven time and again that he is a master at staging musicals and musical revues, and this production is no exception. This is the second show in a row I've seen at Zach with choreography by Robin Lewis, and here's hoping that his energetic, varied, entertaining style becomes a mainstay for many years to come. (I think he could make even me look like a dancer. Now that would be a Christmas miracle.) The set design is by Michael Raiford, and while, for much of the evening, it's a fairly staid lounge, with a simple striped platform fronted by steps, framed with stone walls and backed by a curtain, Raiford, in concert with lighting designer Jason Amato, provides the single greatest holiday surprise in the production toward the end but I don't want to give anything away. Put it this way: Should you attend, it's a charming Christmas show you will always remember.