BWW Review: PLAID TIDINGS Brings Musical Holiday Cheer to Simi Valley
For over a decade, playwright Stuart Ross resisted creating a holiday sequel to his hit jukebox musical FOREVER PLAID. Then, right after 9/11, he was approached by The Pasadena Playhouse that it was the perfect time to bring a little joy and cozy Holiday fun into the world to lift the spirits of those suffering from the terrible loss. Thus, PLAID TIDINGS was born, evolving each year as theaters around the world share its toasty, cozy, musical holiday cheer to assist us in appreciating all the good stuff around us, especially in times of trials and tribulations in the world, our country and for our loved ones.
The hilarious angel doo-wop quartet of Frankie, Sparky, Jinx and Smudge (Craig Sherman, Philip McBride, Augusto Guardado and Andrew Allen) again return to Earth to get a second chance at "making it big" after missing out on the opportunity when a freak accident caused their demise on the night of February 9, 1964 while the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. Believing their mission is to find the purpose for their return, the spirited guys set out to recall past show-stopping performances, finally realizing how much it meant to bring joy and music to their fans.
Director/choreographer Keenon Hooks, working hand-in-hand with musical director Mazie Rudolph, has created an extraordinary 2-hour energetic extravaganza featuring 30 songs made up of not only traditional holiday favorites such as "The Christmas Song," "Let It Snow, "Joy to the World" and "Jingle Bells," but also a few well-known hits from the Plaids past including "Fever," "Stranger in Paradise," "Hey There" and "Mambo Italiano." By accompanying each tune with tons of colorful props and costumes as well as inventive staging each musical spoof became funnier than the last, filling The Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center with enough holiday cheer to light up even the darkest of times thanks to the quartet's extraordinary harmonies and endless energy.
There are so many memorable moments to share that I could go on and on, especially the Plaids' salutes to their idols Rosemary Clooney and Perry Como. But I am choosing to tell you about the highlight of the show for me when a riotous remembrance of acts appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show was comically recreated. For those of us who remember tuning in on Sunday nights, many of the fabulous variety acts created tons of laughter, including men spinning plates on wooden poles, a stuffed dog "jumping" through a hula hoop, the Vienna Boys Choir, Tiny Tim in his tulips, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Señor Wences and Johnny, a childlike face drawn on his hand placed atop an otherwise headless doll, Topo Gigio, ballerinas in tutus, the Flying Wallendas, the Beatles, The Rockettes, and so many others! Happy to say I was laughing so much I could not possible take notes as I did not want to miss any of the quick-paced bits appearing before me!
A two-piece combo of piano (DJ Brady or Paul Duffy) and bass (Art Gibson) kept the music a constant source of musical memories throughout the show. Technical credits are top notch including Production Designer Seth Kamenow, Sound Designer Kevin Kahm, Lighting Designer Andrew Schmedake, all brought together by Producer Fred Helsel to create such a wonderful salute to the joys of the season and unending spirit of doo-wop with pitch-perfect melodies, glorious harmonies and goofy antics performed by four extraordinarily talented triple-threat entertainers.
PLAID TIDINGS continues through December 30, 2018 with performances at 8 pm Wednesday through Saturday and 2 pm on Sunday at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 E Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley, CA 93065. Tickets are $25 Adults, $22 Seniors & Students, and $18 Children and can be purchased online at www.simi-arts.org or by calling (805) 583-7900.
Photo credit: JON NEFTALI PHOTOGRAPHY