Know the Difference between "Hep" and "Hip"?
The American Heartland Theatre
If not, don’t worry. Plaid Tidings, the Christmas sequel to Forever Plaid at American Heartland Theatre will give you a crash course in the lingo and music of a variety of swinging crooners from the 50s and 60s. Featuring an enjoyable quartet of the hardest working, self- proclaimed “never was-es” in show business (played by Seth Golay, Adam Branson, Grant Golson and Ian Jordan Subsara), the musical starts off on a muted note when the deceased quartet returns to earth for one final show. Initially, they are somewhat confused by their mission but with a little ethereal cell phone guidance from their guardian angel, Rosemary Clooney, the four realize the great dream they had in life: a plaid Christmas special, complete with matching red cardigans and Santa hats, that is highlighted by their role as backup singers to Perry Como.
Don’t worry if you haven’t seen the original production; early on, the performers give the audience a lively musical mish-mash of songs that functions as a summary of the first show. Over the course of the 2 ½ hour show, they perform all or part of approximately 35 songs, most of which are old favorites from the period. Not all of the songs are geared toward the holiday season, but as the energetic crescendo builds to the great Christmas special finale, we are treated to a south-of-the-border holiday celebration (complete with Golay in a Carmen Miranda fruit hat) and a comical bell-ringing performance, both of which include audience participation.
Learning so many songs, which often segue from one into the next, in and of itself had to be a major challenge, so it’s not difficult to see why one or two minor lines are flubbed during the performance (which the audience didn’t seem to notice), and the choreography that accompanies the numbers is quite appropriate for the period. The four songsters have smooth, silky voices, and Subsara’s is nearly angelic at times when it goes into the upper registers. But don’t underestimate their capacity for real comedy as well. They are accompanied by Anthony Edwards on piano and Brian Wilson on bass, both of whom play the long-suffering “straight men” to the quartet’s comic antics.
There was a problem with the set descending correctly from the fly space in the final number, but all worked out well in the end. Anyone who is a fan of plaid will love the show, since you’ll see more if it here than anywhere else: the plaid-collared jackets, scarves and matching prop suitcase are the epitome of “retro-swank.” Who knew that you could take one suitcase to heaven (as long as it weighs less than 50 pounds)? The local merchants are already in the holiday spirit this season, but if you aren’t in the mood just yet, this show will get you geared up. And it plays until December 26th, so there’s plenty of time to get tickets.