SDMT’s ‘Plaid Tidings’ checks the box for a 1950s style harmony-filled holiday
By Cassiopeia Guthrie, Dec. 5
What delivers more holiday cheer than a group of carolers and a candy cane? Expect both (and audience participation) with San Diego Musical Theatre’s newest offering Plaid Tidings, running now and through Dec. 24.
The story is simple: the Plaids (a midcentury boy band first introduced in the musical Forever Plaid) have returned to Earth once again following their untimely demise-by-car-accident and time spent as “amorphic blogs of ectomorphic ephemera.” Though the reasons seem unclear at first, a series of clues (interspersed with animations that feature heavenly host Rosemary Cooney) lead Francis, Jinx, Smudge, and Sparky to discern that what is truly needed is a show filled with their holiday standards, Plaid style.
With book by Stuart Ross and directed by David Humphrey, this show delivers on the nostalgia and classic crooning. The four performers are a talented bunch, finding and capitalizing on tight harmonies with skill and personality. Each one has their own idiosyncratic personality traits, of course. Jinx is shy and awkward, but the darling of the group; Jonathan Sangster is an outstanding physical comedian who is able to capture this dynamic perfectly. Smudge is matter-of-fact and worry all wrapped up in one nerdy, nostalgic package; Matt Ignacio, in his San Diego Musical Theatre debut, sets the perfect bass foundation for the quartet. Sparky, energetic and bubbly, is brought to life by the big facials (and outstanding dance moves!) of Xavier J. Bush. Finally, flirtatious and enigmatic Frankie is played by Drew Bradford with a suave hand.
And, while each is charming and endearing in their own rights (and shine in their solo numbers), the comfortability between the four performers is what was really on display, in both their singing and their interactions. From the athleticism and execution of "Mambo Italiano" to Christmas Calypso (San Diego style) to the Como/Ed Sullivan bit (you have to see it to believe it), the show is simply fun... tied up for the holidays in a plaid ribbon.
Accompanied onstage by music director Richard Dueñez Morrison on the keys and Jiachae McGee on double bass, it is worth noting that the music is outstanding throughout, with director-designed choreography that is both true to the genre and well executed. I felt the movement, in particular, played to and highlighted the strengths of each performer. Additionally, the production is set on a simple but effective stage, which features integrated LED and projection effects and lights (Erik Austin) as well as a plush, velvet curtain creating an old-school feel (Rogelio Rosales).
Those who prefer serious theatre with a deep message can probably skip this one, but if, like me, you occasionally just want to tap your toes to an oldies and Christmas tunes set, Plaid Tidings will hit the spot. Running through Dec. 24, this lighthearted fare of 4-part harmony may just leave you humming as you exit the aisles and snag a candy cane on the way to the door.