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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


Plaid Tidings to All

Plaid Tidings
Paul Castree, Christopher Youngsman, Bradley Beahen and Blake Pullen
Once upon a time (in 1956), there were four wholesome and heartfelt guys who loved to sing. And so these men (Sparky, Smudge, Jinx and Frankie) proudly became "Forever Plaid," singing their tight harmonic renditions of the mellow tunes of the time at places such as airport lounges and mall openings. Then, on February 9th, 1964, while on their way to pick up their custom-made plaid tuxedos, their car was struck by a school bus filled with Catholic teens on their way to see the Beatles make their U.S. television debut on the Ed Sullivan show. Those on the school bus were unharmed, but "The Plaids" were killed instantly.

Through the Power of Harmony and the expanding holes in the ozone layer, Sparky, Smudge, Jinx and Frankie were allowed to come back to Earth for one night to perform the show they never got to do in life. Once they have completed their Mission of Harmony, the men in plaid return to the cosmos never to return to Earth again. Thus was born the show Forever Plaid conceived by Stuart Ross, to which Plaid Tidings is the sequel.

What would make the group, "Forever Plaid," come back to Earth in 2005? That is what Jinx, Sparky, Frankie and Smudge struggle to learn when they find they have once more been transported back into the land of the living. In time they realize their mission is to perform The Plaid Holiday Show that never previously existed. And this is the premise of Stuart Ross' Plaid Tidings.

It would be hard to find four characters more warm and dear than the men of Forever Plaid. It is no wonder Stuart Ross chose to bring them back for this sequel. The sweet and sentimental feel of the show, and it's comic nature, give it universal family appeal. Add to that the spirit of the holiday season, and one has a recipe for successful show. A truly successful sequel however, needs to build on the premise of the original, and take the artistic idea further. For all its charm, Plaid Tidings falls short of this mark. The show has the same format, the same jokes, the same dialogue and some of the same songs as the original. In fact, the first half of the show is really a reprise of Forever Plaid. For those who have never seen the first musical, this may all be fresh and new. For those who have seen the original, it is a tad disappointing.

The show really begins after intermission when "The Plaids" return to perform their Plaid Holiday Show. There are some clever incorporations of music from the original show with lyrics from holiday favorites. Two of the characters (Smudge and Frankie) are more fleshed out by their monologues in this sequel, and Sparky is his usual wisecracking self. One of the strongest standout moments is surely a hip-hop version of "Eight Tiny Reindeer" sung by Frankie, bewildered by his own body doing unfamiliar dance steps. Would that the whole show were this creative. Never fear, however, as these four Plaids sing with the greatest of ease and blend. And the Maltz's sound system and design is top notch for this show. Though the intimate nature of the show generally lends itself best to small spaces, this production benefits from a detailed set with backdrops and fly-in that a smaller theatre would rarely have. The men of Forever Plaid and Plaid Tidings stand for home and harmony. What better place to be for the holiday than with them at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre?

The Maltz Jupiter Theatre was able to obtain the creator of Plaid Tidings, Stuart Ross, to direct and stage this production himself with the assistance of Mark Martino. In addition to his plaid shows, Mr Ross is the co-writer of the book of the Tony Nominated Musical Starmites, and the Off-Broadway A Leap of Faith (for Faith Prince) and Fun With Dick And Jane: The Musical. Plaid Tidings features music from the '50s and '60s mixed with holiday favorites. Its list of composers and lyricists is long and impressive. Additional music and the vocal arrangements for Plaid Tidings were written by: James Rait, Brad Ellis, Raymond Berg and David Snyder.

Plaid Tidings runs though December 18th, at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, located at 1001 Indiantown Rd and A1A in Jupiter, FL. Show times are Tuesday through Friday at 7:30 PM, Saturday 8 PM, and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinee at 2 PM. Tickets can be purchased at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre Box Office, on line at www.jupitertheatre.org, or by phone at 561/575-3332 or 800/445-1666. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre is a 550-seat, nonprofit community-based Equity regional theatre belonging to the League of Resident Theatres.

Cast
Frankie: Bradley Beahen*
Sparky: Paul Castree*
Jinx: Blake Pullen*
Smudge: Christopher Youngsman*

Crew
Direction and Musical Staging: Stuart Ross
Associate Director: Mark Martino
Musical Direction: David Snyder
Musical Director: James Followell
Scenic Design: Neil Peter Jampolis
Lighting Design: Jane Reisman
Sound Design: Frederick W. Boot
Costume Design: Debra Stein
Production Stage Manager: Heather Looney*
Assistant Stage Manager: Julie A. Richardson*

* Designates member of Actor's Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage managers in the United States.


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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