Barre Players presents a festive revue with ”Plaid Tidings”
By Kevin T. Baldwin
BARRE: Barre Players Presents “Plaid Tidings” a holiday revue in two acts by Stuart Ross. Barre Players Theater, 64 Common Street, Barre, MA. Performances: Dec. 13 & 14 at 7:30pm, Dec. 8 & 15 at 2:00pm. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for senior citizens (age 65+) and children (age 12 and younger). For reservations, visit barreplayerstheater.com or call 978-355-2096.
Original Forever Plaid Vocal and Musical arrangements by James Raitt. Vocal and Musical arrangements by James Raitt, Brad Ellis, Raymond, David Snyder. Musical Continuity and Supervision by David Snyder.
Original Direction and Musical Staging by Stuart Ross. Directed and Choreographed by Meg Norton. Musical Direction by James Joinville.
Cast Includes: Anthony Masciangioli, Robert Herstedt, James Lamoureux, Isaac Swanson, Andrew Bigelow.
Barre Players finishes of 2019 with the fun, festive and interactive musical revue "Plaid Tidings."
As previously explained in the original “Forever Plaid” by its creator Stuart Ross, four young men who form an early boy band known as the "Plaids" die in a tragic automobile accident.
They all are brought back from the dead for the sole Heavenly mission of crooning ancient 1950s medleys in four-part harmony.
In this sequel, the boys are back and have included some songs from the original musical along with some holiday songs.
At first, Francis (Robert Herstedt), Jinx (Isaac Swanson), Smudge (James Lamoureux) and Sparky (Anthony Masciangioli) aren't sure why they've returned to Earth for another posthumous performance.
However, amusing messages from departed diva Rosemary Clooney advises the quartet to entertain the audience by adding some harmony to an otherwise cacophonous season.
The stage is practically bare with some green drops along the back. There are four microphone stands and four small black stools for each of the Plaids.
The two-person band is on an elevated platform center stage and consists of bass player Nick Lawrence who, along with the Plaids, is under the musical direction of James Joinville, who plays piano.
Various offstage voice overs are heard, as well, supplied efficiently by Andrew Bigelow.
The four actors begin the first act all dressed identically wearing jackets that look reminiscent of a “Scotch Tape” box. They do not acknowledge and are amazingly accepting of the miracles of modern day technology such as cordless microphones and bottled water - but Sparky was visibly stunned by an audience member’s cellular phone.
The “Plaids” sing their way through a long Christmas list of holiday tunes but also re-hash some songs that were in the original “Forever Plaid.”
At the start of the second act, the set is redressed to include a Christmas tree and other decorations.
The quartet re-emerges dressed as four “Mr. Rogers” look-a-likes in red cardigans as they begin dueling choreography by director Meg Norton with a slight nod to “West Side Story” which was hilarious.
Less hilarious was when Sparky broke out into an embarrassingly weird rap song (replete with sideways baseball cap) which had no explanation (before or after) and was more ‘head scratching’ than humorous.
As Frankie, Herstedt was charismatic and had a funny monologue about “Rudolph” which deteriorates into a diatribe about how disturbing some of those early cartoons were.
Isaac Swanson, as young Jinx, has a gorgeous voice yet occasionally seemed a bit disconnected from some of the songs. He thoroughly impressed with some of the show’s more physical comedy.
While four-part harmonies were lacking, when the four sang together on just melodies they were quite strong.
The primary problem with the show was not in the performances but in the regurgitated structure.
There have been similar revues which have spawned sequels and re-hashed certain elements of the original source material. “Plaid Tidings,” however, regurgitates at least half of its original source material and not well. And, admittedly, they just throw the words “Merry Christmas” at the end of these moments and do not seem to think people will notice. It is noticeable. Quite noticeable.
But much of the comedic elements do work and there appears to be a genuine chemistry between the four actors. The retelling of the ‘Plaids” encounter with iconic Christmas performer Perry Como in “The Christmas Cardigan” segment of the show ran into some technical difficulties but overall was one of the highlights of the second act.
With one performance left, the overall strength of “Plaid Tidings” is that, thanks to the effort of cast and crew it offers some genuine laughs for the holidays.
The show runs approximately two hours 15 minutes with one intermission.
For tickets: http://www.barreplayerstheater.com/tickets.html
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)