|Pictured left to right are Sean Powell, Jeremy Sloan, Matthew |
Brown, and Robert Head. Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer
By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker
On this lovely Thanksgiving day we are thankful that we consider ourselves reviewers, not critics. Last night’s production of Plaid Tidings at Broadway Rose would stymie a critic – there is, quite simply, nothing to criticize. The show is not just perfect, it’s: wonderful, enchanting, festive, funny, wistful, heartwarming… everything a Christmas show should be.
Show creator Stuart Ross brought the original show, Forever Plaid, to the stage in 1990. For years he resisted writing a sequel, but he finally relented after 9/11, convinced that “we all needed a little joy and a little cozy holiday fun to lift spirits.” It is something of an understatement to say that he succeeded, and his success is amplified three-fold by the sensitivity, wit, and craftsmanship of Director Dan Murphy and Music Director Jeffrey Childs (not to mention the cast – but more about that later!).
Former high school buddies Sparky, Jinx, Smudge, and Frankie had formed a close-harmony guy group, The Plaids. The group’s none-too-successful career was cut short by a fatal car crash; they were on their way to a show when they collided with a bus full of Catholic girls off to see the Beatles. The Plaids have already returned to Earth once in their role as celestial Guardians of Harmony (in Forever Plaid) and they have no idea why their have been brought back for a sequel. The slow revolves around their musical attempts to fulfill an unknown destiny, carrying us through decades of musical styles (most done, of course, in their signature 4-part harmony). With the help of a disembodied Rosemary Clooney they finally figure out that they are here to give the Christmas show they never got to do (and to bring a little harmony into the lives of their audience). Not surprisingly, the rest of the show is comprised primarily of the Plaids performing their holiday masterpiece, “Plaid Tidings.”
While each of the Plaids (Matthew Brown as “Sparky,” Robert Head as “Jinx,” Sean Powell as “Smudge,” and Jeremy Sloan as “Frankie”) has the opportunity to shine in solo or lead performances, Plaid Tidings is a quintessentially ensemble show. Despite their four amazing voices, the whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts that it is senseless to parse out individual performances for special praise. Each performer is called on for much more than his vocal prowess – we get juggling, dancing (Agnes de Mille would be stunned at their use of “plumber’s friends” in lieu of Fiddler’s broomsticks), pratfalls, an amazing attempt at the splits, physical comedy, accordion and piano playing, and a hefty dose of shamelessly wide-eyed and innocent pathos.
Of course, the Plaids don’t do it all by themselves. Bassist Sean Vinson and pianist Jeffrey Childs provide a full and polished musical background (except when Childs is off on his “union-mandated break”), and Bearclaw Heart’s lighting design is, as always, impeccable. The cleverly designed sets flow seamlessly, taking the Plaids from four mikes on a bare stage to a completely realized holiday setting without delay.
area company rivals Broadway Rose in presenting concert-quality music to
musical theater audiences, and Plaid
Tidings is Broadway Rose at its finest. It just doesn’t get any better than
this. As word gets out, tickets will go
fast – buy now. You deserve a Plaid Christmas. Portland
Broadway Rose Theatre Company’s Plaid Tidings runs through December 22 at the New Stage,
12850 SW Grant Avenue,
Tigard. See the Broadway Rose website for show dates and tickets.