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REVIEW: "Plaid Tidings"

The Encore Musical Theatre Company

'Plaid Tidings' is the rest of this story

By Daniel Skora

Posted: Nov. 29, 2012 at 12:10 p.m.

The Encore Musical Theatre is presenting "Plaid Tidings," the holiday offspring of its immensely popular predecessor, "Forever Plaid." "Plaid Tidings" is a musical review laced with heavy doses of comedy.

The storyline picks up where "Forever Plaid" left off. Sparky (Sebastian Gerstner), Smudge (Rusty Mewha), Jinx (Kevin Rose) and Frankie (Brian Thibault) find themselves inexplicably returned to Earth. In the original "Plaid," the four lads had been killed in an automobile accident just before they were to perform their first show. After spending years in Limbo, they were allowed to come back and put on the show they were never able to do when they were alive. Now it appears that the fates have another use for the boys' talents, as communications from Rosemary Clooney, who got her holiday cred by appearing with Bing Crosby in the film "White Christmas," seem to indicate.

In "Tidings," the Plaids, as they have come to be known, are as musically proficient at singing four-part harmony as ever. Their song selection comes from the time they walked the Earth: mid-'50s tunes rule. Fans of "Your Hit Parade" will recognize songs that came to define the era: "Sh-Boom," "Strangers in Paradise," "Hey There" and "Matilda."

But "Tidings" is, after all, a Christmas show, and it quickly focuses on songs that have become a part of our musical holiday tradition, songs like "Joy to the World," "It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas," "Let It Snow" and "The Christmas Song."

Encore's production is smart, funny, and highly entertaining, due in large part to the four enormously talented young men who make up the Plaids. Gerstner, Mewha, Rose and Thibault are individually great and even better together. Each of their characters represents a type: the clown, the worrier, the shy guy, and the leader. The four have mastered the fancy footwork of the guy groups and have that mischievous streak which makes them ideally suited to be practitioners of the art of comedy.

Besides the songs, comedy is what "Plaid Tidings" is all about. Many of the jokes are done tongue-in-cheek, with the humor directed either at the performers themselves or the songs they are singing. The celebration of Christmas around the world garners a special skewing as does a wild medley of holiday songs in a bit called "A Psycho Christmas."

The best routine is a parody of the "Ed Sullivan Show," a brisk excursion through every type of entertainment that made Sullivan's Sunday night television show a not-to-be-missed event, from the Radio City Rockettes to Topo Gigio, the Italian Mouse. Those who remember a time when the holidays weren't officially in season until your favorite celebrity's Christmas special had been broadcast on TV will enjoy the show's special tribute to Perry Como and his trademark cardigan sweater.

"Plaid Tidings" is light musical fare sure to put a smile on your face this holiday season. It's vibrant, colorful and performed by four of the most likeable and talented guys you may ever see in a musical review. Who knows; before long, everyone in Dexter may soon be sporting one of those snazzy red and green plaid sport jackets that the boys wear so well.

The show is written by Stuart Ross. Encore's production is directed and choreographed by Barb Cullen with costume design by Sharon Larkey Urick. Tyler Driskill is the musical conductor while Thalia Schramm keeps track of the many props used throughout the show.

SHOW DETAILS: "Plaid Tidings" runs through Dec. 23. Tickets are available by phone (734-268-6200), or online at www.theencoretheatre.org. The Encore Theatre is located at 3126 Broad Street in the historic village of Dexter. Take I-94 west and exit at Baker Street.

Reprinted with permission of the New Monitor, Nov. 29, 2012

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