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November 25, 2009 > Theatre Preview: Plaid Tidings to All

Theatre Preview: Plaid Tidings to All

By Janet Grant

Quite frankly I wasn't sure what to expect with Forever Plaid presents "Plaid Tidings - A Special Holiday Edition." But once the curtains rose at the beautiful Douglas Morrison Theatre in Hayward and the sonorous strains of a Gregorian chant wafted through the aisles mashed together with "Sha-boom," I settled in for what looked like a night of fun. And fun it was - a veritable wholesome, funny, melodic, Christmas, fruitcaky, nostalgic, cozy winter kind of fun.

"Plaid Tidings" by Stuart Ross is actually a sequel to "Forever Plaid." In the original, a car carrying a wholesome 1960's male quartet was struck by a bus full of Catholic High School girls on their way to the Beatle's 1964 debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. The girls were unharmed but the boys were killed. But through some act of divine intervention and depletion of the ozone layer, the boys were able to return to the land of the living for a one-night concert they never gave in life. After their mission of harmony they returned to the cosmos never to return to earth again.

So when the boys, Frankie, Sparky, Jinx and Smudge come back to a stage on earth in "Plaid Tidings," they are at a loss as to why they are there. But the show must go on, and that is what the boys do by singing numbers from the 40s and 50s until a few cryptic messages come from Rosemary Clooney from the Great Beyond nudging them towards their true mission - to perform the Plaids Holiday Special, their "uber" dream when they were alive.

I would be hard pressed to find a more pleasant and endearing group of guys then the Plaid quartet. In the program dedication, it states that "Forever Plaid" is dedicated to the "good guys." And that is exactly what we get with the Plaids, a bunch of really good guys. From Frankie played by Scott Maraj who keeps the group organized and motivated, to the wise-cracking, gum chewing Sparky, played by Kevin Hammond, to Jinx, the shy, tentative, nose-bleeding tenor played by Sean Cooper, to Smudge, the smart, sentimental and quite amazing bass, played by Zach Thompson. The quartet harmonized wonderfully and played off each other as if they had been together, well all their lives!

The numbers themselves were fun and ingenious, especially "Angels We Have Heard on High" mashup with the "Banana Boat Song," and a very cool hip-hop number sung by Frankie who is truly bewildered by the dance movements his body makes. In the second act the quartet performs an amazing tribute to the big TV shows of the era, The Perry Como Holiday Special, where Sparky tells the story of how the Plaids were almost his backup singers, and the Ed Sullivan Show, where the Plaids ingeniously act out a three-hour special in five minutes while deftly including Topo Gigio and the Flying Walendas!

Bravo to Managing and Artistic Director, Nancy McCullough Engle and her talented crew for presenting such nice holiday fare. "Plaid Tidings," is truly a chance to enjoy a cozy, holiday treat complete with the memories of a much gentler time. Though the younger audience probably will not know some of the songs or understand the allusions to Perry Como, Ed Sullivan or the great Rosemary Clooney (Aunt of George Clooney!), "Plaid Tidings" is an appealing, fun outing that can be enjoyed by the entire family. Kids, this is one of those blasts-to-the-past kind of things that will put a smile on your parents or grandparents faces, so go and enjoy some of that nostalgia with them.

And don't forget, A Plaid Tidings to you, one and all!

Plaid Tidings - A Special Holiday Edition

Friday-Saturday, November 27-28
Thursday - Saturday, December 3-5
8 p.m.

Sunday, November 29, Dec 6
2 p.m.

Douglas Morrisson Theatre
22331 N. 3rd Street, Hayward
(510) 881-6777
(Tuesday through Friday 12:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.)

Adults: $25: Seniors: $22; Students: $15

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