BWW Review: PLAID TIDINGS, Bridge House Theatre
The boys are back in town - back on Earth actually - this time with a Christmas-themed show that follows on from the wonderfully warm Forever Plaid (last seen on these shores a couple of years ago). Writer, Stuart Ross, wisely chose not to fix something that wasn't broken, so we get our four boys visiting from above for one last show, the Holiday Special that they never got to record.
This show was a nostalgia-fest when it was written in the early noughties (and that's the only naughty thing about it, the Americans not really embracing our penchant for pantoish double entendres at Christmas) so it's not aged at all. Our boys are all a little over sixteen, but probably never been kissed, and brimming with Yankee can-do in a way that perhaps only the prospect of putting on a musical promotes.
Soon they're harmonising on a sublime "Stranger In Paradise" and then the bantz kicks off, joshing knockabout stuff, all four boys just a little nervous and neurotic. To be perfectly frank, most of that stuff could be ditched without affecting the appeal of the show and if it made room for a few mores songs, well so be it!
The four voices are lovely, especially close up in so intimate a venue. Laurie Denman leads on keys, never far from a stress-induced nosebleed, with strong support from Kris Marc-Joseph's anxiety-wracked Frankie, Alex Bloomer's japester, Sparky, and Joshua Da Costa's intellectual, Smudge. (When the intellectual in the gang goes by the name Smudge, you kinda know the deal).
But it's really about the songs and they're all the ones you would expect from an old school Christmas show. Some are delivered in Stars On 45ish megamix style where others get the full treatment; some are sung without mics, some with; and some are knocked out acapella while most get keys and sometimes a backing track. There's a list of songs available, but it's far more fun not knowing what's coming and saying to yourself, "I haven't heard that one for years".
There's a bit of dancing, a remarkably brave number of props to handle and even a bit of A/V that sent a cold shiver down the spine of those of us who never get that stuff working first time.
Suddenly, we're having a curtain call singalong and sent out with "Happy Holidays" ringing in our years (it's an American show after all).
Like its parent show, Plaid Tidings is hardly breaking new ground in MT - but it doesn't profess to do so . It's a cynicism-free couple of hours in the hands of skilled singers delivering songs you know and songs that you forgot that you knew. Even in a hot space, the time passed very quickly indeed and, for a show like this, that's high praise. You emerge back into real life just that bit happier with things for spending time with our tartany troubadours.