YORK THEATER COMPANY'S PLAID TIDINGS
December 20, 2015
Plaid Tidings, a special holiday edition of Forever Plaid (the nostalgia-infused off-Broadway musical hit of the 1990s), tells the same story as the original: four high school friends that sing in a 1950s “four-part harmony guy group,” die in a car accident “with a Catholic schoolgirl bus” but get sent back to Earth for a time, with a holiday twist. As the program notes, they bring back “the side of harmony, innocence and the sincerity of dreams” of a time more often associated with rock-n-roll and teenage rebellion. And for anyone in need of a break from the pretentious, the ultra-sophisticated, the smart phone, or the burden of an over-commercialized Christmas season, this show is a great antidote.
Wonderfully sung, acted, danced and played by Bradley Beahen, Ciarán McCarthy, José Luaces, and John-Michael Zuerlein (with James Followell on piano, and Joseph Fitzgerald on bass), the show moved at a fast clip, deftly weaving renditions of holiday classics like Jingle Bells and Hark, the Herald Angels Sing with schmaltzy classics like Bésame Mucho, all brilliantly directed and staged by Stuart Ross (the original director of Forever Plaid). In one hilarious medley, the actors went from piously singing Gloria in Exclesis Deo to belting out Day-O, the catchy Jamaican folk song made famous by Harry Belafonte. Cultural references and inside jokes abound for audience members in the know – at one point while singing Louis Armstrong’s Have a Yule That’s Cool, the music briefly referred to Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, and the performers broke out into Jerome Robbins’ choreography with an energy, style and delivery that was infectious.
For the grand finale, we got a three-minute rendition of an entire episode of the Ed Sullivan Show – a high-speed spark notes version that captured the zaniness and everything-but-the-kitchen sink feel of the classic variety show. But even more memorable was the feeling of nostalgia and humor that permeated the entire show, sending the audience (even those of us without memories of that time), out into the night, smiling and humming all the way home.
EYE ON THE ARTS--Nicole Duffy Robertson