Theater Review: ‘Plaid Tidings’ Provides Holiday Stress Relief

PlaidsCLARKSVILLE, Tenn.  For those who like their holiday tidings light, Roxy Regional Theatre’s Plaid Tidings is a retro revue that offers an alternative to Scrooge and A Christmas Carol. A spinoff of the popular Off-Broadway musical Forever Plaid, it tells the tale of a four-man harmony group that died in a 1960s collision with a busload off Beatles fans. Summoned by Rosemary Clooney, they have returned to earth from the celestial heavens to perform a Christmas show.

Plaid Tidings is a lighthearted romp through the mid-century, tipping its hat to Perry Como, Bing Crosby and Ed Sullivan while performing such songs as “Cool Yule,” “Mambo Italiano,” “Beseme Mucho” and “Jingle Bell Medley.”

In director Tom Thayer’s deft hands, the musical’s self-deprecating comedic lines, written by Stuart Ross, get a heaping dose of physical comedy. Then, naturally, there are the harmonious standards sung by the four actors: Ryan Bowie, as Jinx, is first tenor; Michael Spaziani, as Francis, is second tenor; Josh Bernaski, as Sparky, is baritone; and RJ Magee, as Smudge, is bass.

When the musical is at its best is when these actors, who work hard to entertain the audience, are given the best of the songs to sing. Certain ones are arranged to allow each man’s voice to flourish (Thayer, who also plays piano, has a range that deals equally in nostalgia and glee; he is accompanied by John Waddle on bass guitar).

After The Plaids walk into the theater singing a monastic “Deus Ex Plaid,” they take the stage with the melodic 1950s “Stranger in Paradise,” led by the operatic voice of Spaziani. The play continues in this retro vein, as the Plaids sing the standards with which they were familiar during their mid-level career on earth.

Each man has his hit song, the one that suits his voice best – Bernaski’s is “O Little Town of Bethlehem,Magee’s is “Let it Snow” and Bowie’s is the finale. Each man brings groovy harmonies to the catchy “Cool Yule.”

The holidays, while beloved, can bring with them their own special stress; there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is found in Roxy Regional Theatre. Plaid Tidings provides an escape to the 1950s and 1960s, a time when four-man harmony groups were still the rage and Americans seemed a little more innocent for loving them.

Plaid Tidings directed by Tom Thayer continues through Saturday (Dec. 14) at Roxy Regional Theatre  (100 Franklin St.). Shows are occur at 7 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday and at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets ($25 adults and $15 for those 13 and under) can be ordered by calling the box office at (931) 645-7699 or online at www.roxyregionaltheatre.org.

*Photo of The Plaids ( from left to right RJ Magee, Josh Bernaski, Ryan Bowie and Michael Spaziani) by Karen Parr-Moody courtesy the photographer and Roxy Regional Theatre.

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About Karen Parr-Moody

Karen Parr-Moody began her career as a New York journalist, working as a fashion reporter for Women's Wear Daily, a beauty editor for Young Miss and a beauty and fashion writer for both In Style and People magazines. Regionally she has written for www.clarksvillenow.com, The Leaf-Chronicle and Nashville Arts magazine.