OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: 'Plaid Tidings' fun, but feels re-gifted

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2012-11-20T00:00:00Z 2012-11-21T13:53:38Z OFFBEAT: 'Plaid Tidings' fun, but feels re-giftedPhilip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

It's been a few years since I've seen the original "Forever Plaid," the retro, winking, fun romp of favorite songs and antics of yesteryear. I believe it was in December 2006 at Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook.

It's an audience favorite that played for years at The Royal George Theatre in Chicago, before Theatre at the Center in Munster nabbed the first regional staging of it in February 2002 after it closed following the six-year Windy City run.

So it makes perfect sense to have a sequel, and planning it around a holiday theme couldn't be more ideal.

The result is "Plaid Tidings," and it's the holiday stage selection at Theatre at the Center in Munster now through Dec. 23. This musical revue previously played in Chicago in 2005 at what used to be called The Drury Lane Theatre at Water Tower Place, but I never saw it.

So when I attended Sunday's press opening for Theatre at the Center's staging, I was an audience member with a fresh perspective. However, halfway through the first act, this show seemed very familiar.

Yep, this intended flashback fun and entertainment gave me a flashback that seemed just a little too familiar, while watching the production directed by Artistic Director William Pullinsi.

The cast of four (along with the featured voice of Chicago newsman Bill Kurtis providing some cameo narration) does a great job and have pipes that are in fine tune.

Rod Thomas as "Francis" is clearly the stand-out, with Scott Stratton in fine form as flighty "Smudge," Frank J. Paul as scattered "Jinx" and Jonathan Wagner as unflappable "Sparky."

If you fall into my category of forgetting some of the back story, much of Act I for this this two and half hour, one-intermission performance, recounts how it all began.

It's the story of the singing group whose lives were lost in an accident involving a busload of teens en route to see "The Ed Sullivan Show." For this holiday spin, they are encouraged by a heavenly phone call from the late Rosemary Clooney, and the high-spirited boys of "Forever Plaid" are transported from the ethereal cosmos to stage a nostalgic holiday extravaganza for world-weary mortals on Earth.

The jokes are corny and much of the banter and fussing among the foursome seems exactly the same as what's used in the original incarnation.

If you're like me, you will love the nostalgic tunes performed, including "Sha-Boom," "Mambo Italiano" and Peggy Lee's "Fever." But the first act doesn't feel all that very holiday-oriented. I enjoyed Act II far more, especially a few hand bell selections performed with precision and a Christmas salute to crooner Perry Como that includes a great vintage clip. But a few of the songs, like a "Rudolph" bit, fall into the category of "groaner" for the silliness and drippy yet dry wit.

This show also re-creates a re-vamped "Calypso," and a repeat of the guys' right-on-target 3-minute frantic recreation of an episode of "The Ed Sullivan Show," both also featured in the original "Forever Plaid."

I know there are many classic holiday recipes enjoyed every season. But this holiday punch could use some spiking.

Tickets are $38 to $42 at (219) 836-3255 or TheatreAtTheCenter.com.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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