The boys are back: Smudge, Jinx, Sparky and Frankie, better known as the 1950s-style singing group The Plaids, return for their holiday show Plaid Tidings, now at the CLO Cabaret.
Plaid Tidings is a sequel to original Forever Plaid, placing Forever Plaid in the ranks of such theatrical franchises as Nunsense and The Taffetas.
On the plus side, you do not have to see the original to understand Plaid Tidings.Unfortunately, like most sequels, the script doesn't measure up to the original.
In the original, The Plaids (who were killed in a car accident on their way to their first show) come back from Heaven to do that show. In Plaid Tidings, The Plaids return to do the Christmas special they never got to do. Plaid Tidings even goes so far as to steal from the original when the performers re-do their Ed Sullivan Show routine. Playwright Stuart Ross didn't create much of a plot for Forever Plaid; he supplies even less for Plaid Tidings.
Plaid Tidings director Guy Stroman keeps this production tight and fast-paced, and the cast members (Billy Hepfinger, Brandon Lambert, Eric Longo and Quinn Patrick Shannon) deserve high marks for their energetic performances. The singing is spectacular; the harmonies, lush. Not only do these four actors sing more than 30 musical numbers, they perform the gee-whiz humor without commenting on it. And they move scenery, too!
Memorable moments include the beautiful "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "The Carol of the Bells" and Frankie's (Shannon) tirade on "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
There is also a rap number ("Twuz Tha Nite B4 Xmas"), which seems terribly out of place. On the other hand, the modern element of cell phones is handled in a very funny way.
This talented director and cast as well as these classic songs deserve a much better book than they got. To their credit, all the participants rise above this script.
If you know who Rosemary Clooney is, or if you remember watching Perry Como on your black-and-white television, Plaid Tidings may be just the shot in the arm your Christmas spirit needs.