MIDVALE — The basic premise for Plaid Tidings is that a four members of a close-harmony guy band who died tragically in a car accident in the 1950’s have come back to life to perform one final concert in honor of Christmas. To be quite honest, I just gave away the ending to the entire show because nothing else really happens.
At first, the boys are not sure what the point of their concert is. The basic sentiments they express go something like this: Why have we been sent back to earth? Why are we craving to sing Christmas songs SO badly? Wouldn’t it be selfish to sing about Christmas if we’ve been sent back for another reason? This mystery is obvious and hokey to the audience, but we can milk the joke-fodder out of it for at least the first half of the show! Then the characters figure it out. Then they sing about Christmas for the last half of the show.
The other primary source of stale jokes in this play is the fact that the boys just came back to life and, as such, are a bit nervous and out of practice. Sparky (Berlin Schlegel) forgets not to chew gum during songs. Jinx (Wade Walker) gets nose-bleeds and forgets his choreography. Smudge (Jourdan Dixon) hates solos. Frankie (Phil Smith) is desperately trying to keep the rest of the band on track. The hard thing here was that perhaps if the play were performed in really top-notch style, these gags would have actually been funny. But this production at Midvale Main Street Theatre was rough enough around the edges that I had a hard time distinguishing between the characters being nervous and the actors actually being underprepared. This holds true particularly for sloppy choreography and vocals.
Some of the show’s scenes were ridiculously clever and funny. I was delighted with Phil Smith’s monologue about the socially repressive implications of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I would have liked to spend more time laughing about Smudge’s horrible family Christmases. I was delighted when the cast performed a recap of the entire Ed Sullivan Show in three minutes and eleven seconds, employing some hilarious set (Ryan Fallis) and costume (Jan Harris) elements. Overall, though, I don’t think I was this show’s target demographic. When four clean-cut boys from the 1950’s come back to life, it’s to be expected that their jokes and references will appeal most to individuals who were alive during the 1950’s. I missed the boat by more than two decades.
The sound quality (Tanner Danielson) was decent, but at one point the vocals were painfully loud, and Berlin Schlegel’s solos were often hard to hear over the other vocalists. The singing, though was all right. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if someone was off pitch because their character was supposed to be nervous, or if they were just actually off pitch. Wade Walker, though, exhibited amazing vocal talent which, combined with his naturally engaging stage presence, made him a pleasure to watch. Jourdan Dixon did have some amazing dry moments and interacted wonderfully with the audience. The choreography (Aaron Ford) was creative, but its execution was sometimes sloppy… possibly on purpose? Directed by Tammy Ross, the acting often felt canned, so some jokes that might have been legitimately funny fell flat.
The cast and crew of Midvale Main Street Theatre’s Plaid Tidings obviously put a lot of work into this production, and occasionally their talent was really impressive. All in all, this was the sort of show that would have been the most charming production in the world if it had been performed at a church or family holiday party. In any other situation, though–particularly one in which money is asked of patrons–this production would make for a bit of a taxing evening.