The members of the band, Forever Plaid, may be dead, but their spirits keep on returning to San Diego County. Over the years, the highly successful Off-Broadway revue has played in theatres such as the Theatre in Old Town and the Old Globe Theatre.
For the holidays, Welk Resort Theatre presents the cheery and festive sequel, Plaid Tidings. The original Forever Plaid ended with the quartet returning to heaven after performing a 1950s themed show. Some time later, the gang abruptly finds itself on an Escondido stage.
Natural leader Frankie (Bryan Banville), clumsy Jinx (Luke H. Jacobs), jokester Sparky, (JD Dumas) and the extremely intelligent Smudge (Chaz Feuerstine), don’t understand why they are back on earth again. The Plaids soon go on a quest to figure out the purpose behind their return.
Director and choreographer, David Humphrey, continues to be an integral part of the Plaid’s adventures. In the past, Humphrey performed and worked behind the scenes on numerous versions of both revues.
Humphrey uses a lot of light touches in expanding the action of the evening. Ensemble members spend a lot of time roaming around the stage and the aisles.
Just like his direction, Humphrey’s choreography becomes looser during the evening. His enjoyably random movement incorporates everything from Irish dancing to plumbers.
While the night manages to be consistently entertaining, Act I sometimes feels like an extended buildup for Act II. Not as many Christmas numbers are featured early on, since the group spends a lot of time looking for clues to solve their mystery.
During the early goings, Stuart Ross’ book goes for a few too many gags at the expense of the vocalists. His jokes repeat the point that the Plaids haven’t performed for a long time. What keeps these moments from being laugh-free are the four leads that carry Plaid Tidings.
Wearing plaid jackets courtesy of Janet Pitcher, the four principals – Banville, Jacobs, Dumas and Feuerstine – have no issues singing in unison. Audience members could be fooled into believing that the stars sung together for years.
Ross’ script hits its stride when he begins to embrace Noel. Once the plot revolves increasingly around December 25, there are plenty of feel-good sequences to get theatregoers into a jolly mood.
Most of Ross’ funniest jokes are in Act II, including an offbeat anecdote about how the Plaids almost worked with Perry Como. Each of the main artists become more confident, which actually adds to humorous scenarios.
Pianist/music director/conductor, Justin Gray, and bass player, Martin Martiarena, are the ideal musicians for the Plaids. With the help of Patrick Hoyny’s miking, the duo adds to the retro appeal of Ross’ tale.
Popular songs such as “Let it Snow,” “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” and “Jingle Bells” are featured in the performance. However, a few of the catchiest tunes are not classic carols.
Right before intermission, Norman Span’s hit calypso, “Matilda,” gets the holiday treatment with altered lyrics. The players croon the addictive chorus with self-assured swagger.
Audience participation is featured in Plaid Tidings, but not to an absurd degree. Be aware that at least one lucky person will be picked to play with the Plaids. However, don’t expect anything too crazy or embarrassing to happen.
Plaid Tidings might have a few slow spots early on, but it quickly becomes a winning combination of classic melodies and family-friendly comedy. Living in the afterlife does not stop the Plaids from providing a merry eve of entertainment.