By Charlene Baldridge | SDUN Arts Writer
As they say during the 90-minute musical show, “There’s no place like ‘Plaid’ for the holidays.” That statement, made in song by four close-harmony guys, is borne out as they bring about a bit of seasonal charm in “Plaid Tidings,” the 2002 sequel to “Plaid” creator Stuart Ross’s phenomenal hit, “Forever Plaid.”
The four youthful characters, who so endeared themselves to theatergoers in the past, are allowed to return to earth a second time, not knowing why. They’ve been given another chance to achieve what they didn’t in life—this time in a holiday show titled “Plaid Tidings,” which plays locally through Dec. 26 at Balboa Park’s Old Globe Theatre.
Landing amid lightning strikes, Jinx (Leo Daignault), Smudge (Jason Heil), Sparky (David Brannen) and Frankie (Michael Winther) find themselves in the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre at the Old Globe. One of the quartet says, “Look. We’re back in San Diego, at the Old Globe. Is it my imagination or do they (audience members) look kinder?” Another replies, “No. Not kinder. Just older.” Well, the “boys” are older, too, this time around, gently lending the show a feeling that though things have changed, we’re still safe with these dear, funny men, all of whom are inept on purpose still upset the “harmonal” balance of the world, especially now that we are held hostage by awful holiday recordings.
As before, high tenor Jinx is inept with the microphone and prone to nosebleeds; Smudge, the bass, is a rather pompous word lover and blind as a bat without his glasses. To say that Daignault, Heil, Brannen and Winther all sing like angels all the time and that the blend is always perfect would be hyperbole (I saw the evening show Sunday, Dec. 5, at the end of a long opening week); however, all do a superb job of establishing character and lightness and their specialty is still making onlookers feel “comforted, warm, and runny inside.” Music director is Don LeMaster, with Steven Withers on piano and Tom Christensen on bass. Daignault is the dance captain, with Heil turning in some amusing terpsichorean moves.
Favorite skits resurrected from “Forever Plaid” include the Perry Como segment and the quicksilver “Ed Sullivan Show” replete with Topo Gigio. Ross adds an extremely funny cell phone gag, with the guys running all over trying to discover the source of the (to us) familiar ring tone, then not knowing what a cell phone is.
Along the way to Plaid fulfillment, the audience sings along on “Matilda,” and hears such numbers as “Kingston Market,” “Moment’s to Remember,” “Kiss of Fire” and “Besame Mucho,” while also enjoying beloved seasonal works such as “The Dreidel Song,” “Joy to the World,” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Departing audience members remarked to one another how much fun they’d had.
“Forever Plaid” made its Old Globe premiere in 1991. The show had been playing in New York supper clubs for a year when former managing director Tom Hall saw it and decided to produce it at the Old Globe Theatre. “Forever Plaid” was such a hit, Hall brought the show back the following year. Several years later it played an extended run at the Theatre in Old Town. “Plaid Tidings” premiered at Pasadena Playhouse in 2001.
“Plaid Tidings” continues at 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays and 2 p.m. Saturdays through Sundays through Dec. 26, $35-$67, Old Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park, San Diego, theoldglobe.org or (619) 23-GLOBE.