Charlene Baldridge | Downtown News
In a program note, “Forever Plaid” creator Stuart Ross says that for quite a while he resisted making a holiday sequel to the phenomenal little show that originally captivated San Diego in 1991.
Because of 9/11 Ross finally succumbed to pressure and in 2001 “Plaid Tidings” premiered at the Pasadena Playhouse. Though it has not achieved the widespread popularity of regular Plaid, “Plaid Tidings” is familiar fare hereabouts and is currently produced for the second year in a row by New Village Arts (NVA).
A capacity audience attended the evening performance the day following Thanksgiving, perhaps an indication that the piece will establish itself as a holiday classic in North County San Diego. Jason Heil, himself a veteran Plaid, directs the production, which plays through December 31 at the Carlsbad theater.
The good news this year is the arrival of NVA debutant Daniel Filippi, who creates an indelible character of Smudge, the gauche, philosophical shy guy with the spectacles and an ulcer. Filippi’s bass voice provides ballast for many of the songs, he does a fine solo turn in “It’s a Wonderful Time of the Year,” and he is adept to the point that one had no doubt he was capable of 11th hour cartwheels. David S Humphrey, an extreme “Forever Plaid” and “Plaid Tidings” alumni, is the choreographer and Lyndon Pugeda, the music director/pianist.
The other Plaids, who reprise their roles from last year’s NVA production, are Bryan Banville as Frankie, Charles Evens as Sparky, and Conor Tibbs as Jinx.
The songs include favorites from the original “Plaid” such as “Kingston Market,” “Moments to Remember,” “Kiss of Fire,” “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing,” the sing-along “Matilda,” and “Besame Mucho.”
In addition to a recap of the “Forever Plaid” plot for “Plaid virgins”—where did this throwback close harmony group come from?—There is a reprise of the three-minute “Ed Sullivan Show,” replete with Topo Gigio and the Flying Nuns.
Ross adds an extremely funny cell phone gag—how could these dead guys know from cell phones?—during which the performers run into the audience trying to discover the source of discordant harmony. Holiday additions include “The Dreidel Song,” “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” “Joy to the World,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” and “Carol of the Bells,” hilariously embellished with actual hand bell playing, audience participation and a switch of bells.
“Forever Plaid” made its San Diego debut in 1991 at the Old Globe. Created by friends in a living room, the original piece had been playing in New York City supper clubs for a year when it was seen by former Globe Managing Director Tom Hall, who decided to bring it to the Globe. The show was such a hit it was remounted the following year and then played an extended run at the Theatre in Old Town, at the time setting a record for the longest-running show in San Diego.
Some may call “Plaid” and “Plaid Tidings” corny and indeed they are. But when the shows are sincerely played, as “Plaid Tidings” is at NVA, they strike more chords than mere aural harmony can achieve.
The four young men, you may recall, are dead, forever frozen in time in virginal, close-harmony naiveté brought about when their bus was struck broadside by a busload of Catholic school girls on their way to see the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
The original “Forever Plaid” brought them back for the show they never performed on earth. It takes a while following their “Tidings” reappearance for the lads to realize they’re supposed to plan and perform their Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa show. Once they begin, we’re flying.
“Plaid Tidings” continues through December 31 at 8 p.m. Thursdays—Saturdays with matinees at 3 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, a 4 p.m. Christmas Eve matinee, and a 7 p.m. New Year’s Eve champagne-toast performance, New Village Arts Theatre, 2787 State St., Carlsbad. Tickets are $32 – $35, visit newvillagearts.org or call 760-433-3245.
Charlene Baldridge moved to San Diego from the Chicago area in 1962. She’s been writing about the arts since 1979, and has had her features, critiques, surveys and interviews included in various publications ever since. Her book “San Diego, Jewel of the California Coast” (Northland Publishing) is currently available in bookstores. She can be reached at email@example.com
Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings
Through Dec. 31
New Village Arts Theatre
Thur. – Sat. 8 p.m
Matinees Sat. 3 p.m. & Sun. 2 p.m.
Christmas Eve 4 p.m.
New Year’s Eve 7 p.m.