Fabric of Fun: 'Plaid Tidings' unravels with gift of musical comedy for the holidays

2012-11-16T00:00:00Z 2012-11-21T13:53:38Z Fabric of Fun: 'Plaid Tidings' unravels with gift of musical comedy for the holidaysBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

In actor Rod Thomas' humble and entertaining opinion, "Plaid is the perfect fit for the holidays."

His mention of "Plaid," spelled with a capital "P," isn't referencing fabric recommendations for holiday party skirts and festive vests or dinner tablecloths and napkins for yuletide cheer.

Thomas and his smiling nod is about the new holiday musical comedy revue he is starring in at Theatre at the Center in Munster.

"Plaid Tidings," opening this weekend and playing until Dec. 23, is the sequel to the record-breaking "Forever Plaid."

Featuring Christmas standards like "Mr. Santa," "Let It Snow" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," Thomas, who plays "Francis," is one of the four-member cast also starring Scott Stratton as "Smudge," Frank J. Paul as "Jinx" and Jonathan Wagner as "Sparky."

Theatre at the Center Artistic Director William Pullinsi directs and even CBS Chicago newsman Bill Kurtis is lending his instantly recognizable voice for a special cameo in the production.

Thomas was already having holiday thoughts during the summer months about this show, soon after he was cast.

"I was cast for 'Tidings' while I was still performing during Theatre at the Center for the run of 'Little Shop of Horrors,'" Thomas said.

He said the "Plaid" musicals feature characters he's been familiar with for a long time, which is why he enjoys stepping into these famed stage loafers and classic patterned sport coats.

"Plaid Tidings" continues the story of the retro singing group whose lives were lost in an accident involving a busload of teens en route to see "The Ed Sullivan Show."

Encouraged by a heavenly phone call from Rosemary Clooney, the same "high-spirited" boys from the original "Forever Plaid" are transported from the ethereal cosmos to a "second-chance" stage with a nostalgic holiday extravaganza for world-weary mortals on Earth.

Described as "a show for the whole family," the holiday sequel combines familiar tunes from the 1950s and 1960s with traditional holiday songs and carols.

And Thomas says sprinkled among the Christmas offerings are audience favorites like what he calls "a riotous three minute and 11 second version of 'The Ed Sullivan Show,' this time featuring The Rockettes, The Chipmunks and The Vienna Boys Choir." He said there is also a "Plaid Caribbean Christmas" which "puts the Day-O in Excelsis."

"My first time ever cast in 'Plaid' was in 1998 at the Wagon Wheel Dinner Theater in Warsaw, Ind. and they had me in the role who sings bass," Thomas said.

"And it was also at the Wagon Wheel when I first started working with Jonathan (Wagner), who also in this production. And with the other two cast members in this 'Plaid,' group, I worked with both of them here at Theatre at the Center when we all were in the cast of the holiday favorite 'It's a Wonderful Life' back in 2008." 

Thomas, who graduated from Northwestern and then moved to New York in 2003 to pursue Broadway, returned to Chicago and was cast in the national tour of Broadway's "The Lion King."

As for his favorite part of doing this holiday show, Thomas said he loves the audience participation moments.

"Everyone in the audience is in the holiday spirit and participation makes it a brand-new show for every performance," he said.

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