Comfort and Joy come to the Jewel Box Theatre with “Plaid Tidings”
The Christmas season is upon us and the Jewel Box Theatre unwraps the festive “Plaid Tidings!” The holiday edition of the classic “Forever Plaid”, created by Stuart Ross in 1990, is a sequel meant to lift broken spirits during the holidays following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. It has since become a cheerful holiday treat to anyone seeking warmth and heart during this now over stimulated and rather over materialized season, and is a delight for any lover of a genuine Christmas song that hasn’t been digitally damaged with techno tunes.
The musical opens to a heavenly and simplistic Variety show esthetic. The Band, Musical Director Tim Goff on keyboard and Chris Black on Bass, opens to a 1960’s radio broadcast airing the unfortunate fate of the young promising quartet, the Plaids. Killed in a collision before they hit the big stage- instead it’s a bus full of girls on their way to see a Beatles concert- they are thrust back to earth many years later, right to the modern-day stage, modern-day audience in tow. But what is their interstellar and multidimensional purpose for returning to earth, more specifically, the Jewel Box stage? To spread comfort and true yuletide cheer to those so usually drowned in an immediate “holidaze” with a big holiday show they always dreamed of performing!
These do wop do-gooders with a love of harmony and a stitch fix for Perry Como cardigans are portrayed by the fresh talents of Jeremy Small as Jinx, Owen Whitman as Frankie, Mitchell Hammond as Sparky, and Gareth Forsberg as Smudge. Although in their early twenties and only aware of this golden age of music and variety through movies/musicals and stories told by beloved family elders, they recreate the sound and cozy festive merriment of yester year with real enthusiasm. Small’s Jinx is clean cut, All-American adorable with a nice set of pipes to back it up. He’s a real talent with great comedic timing. Mitchell Hammond is the group’s jokester Sparky. He has a very “Johnny Angel’s cute kid brother” feel about him that works well for his role; he’s a real ham. He falls a little short for solos, but has a strong voice for harmony. Whitman’s Frankie is a real leader of the group, a little neurotic, but his presence is precise and on point. Whitman’s voice is strong, maybe a little pitchy in some areas, but sweet and sensitive, ala Frank Sinatra. Gareth Forsberg is the loveable and nerdy Smudge. A Buddy Holly quality with a hidden Fred Astaire flare, his bass is sturdy, and his range is quite fair. Together, they are a fine group of idyllic barbershop vocals, and with more practice and tone control, their blend will be as velvety smooth as the ribbon hanging on the Christmas tree.
Director Scott Hynes has made a winter wonderful directorial debut at the Jewel Box with “Tidings.” His skillset and supervision, along with Jennifer Conaughty’s keen and smooth choreography and superb music direction from Goff, not to mention the bold bass from Black, creates a Christmas special that’s cheeky, cheesy, and full of cheer. Hynes’ time with and attention to vintage detail does not go unnoticed.
“Plaid Tidings” is a gem of a show, and a lovely reminder that “when crummy things happen, even death, we all still have the ability to create a little harmony.” Ring in the merry mayhem of the season with this musical full of comfort and joy…but leave the fruitcake behind.
By Jillian Pritchard Ball, Oklahoma Art Scene and Hurd