Theatre at the Center stages ‘Plaid Tidings’
By Don Snider November 14, 2012 2:52PM
Frank J. Paul (from left), Rod Thomas, Jonathan Wagner and Scott Stratton star in "Plaid Tidings" at Theatre at the Center. | Michael Brosilow photo
◆ Through Dec. 23, with an official
opening on Nov. 18
◆ Theatre at the Center,
1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Ind.
◆ Tickets, $38 to $42.
◆ (219) 836-3255 (box office) or (800) 511-1552 (Tickets.com); theatreatthecenter.com
Updated: December 19, 2012 11:27AM
The opening line in “Forever Plaid” was, one might say, dead-on: “We’re the Four Plaids and we’re forever dead.”
The musical, a 1990 revue of the four-part harmony groups of the 1950s, became so popular that it spawned a sequel especially for the holidays.
“Plaid Tidings will be performed on the Theatre at the Center stage in Munster, Ind., through Dec. 23.
As the original story went, the Plaids were a quartet intent on creating their vision of the clean-cut genre when they all were killed in an auto accident.
They returned from the afterlife for one last chance for fame.
The songs they sang were among the great hits of the prerock era.
This relatively new version brings them together again to bring a little harmony to a discordant world.
Interestingly, “Plaid Tidings” has become almost as popular as the original musical.
“Plaid Tidings” mixes many holiday chestnuts such as “White Christmas” with other pop hits of the era.
In fact, just as the original “Forever Plaid” show, “Plaid Tidings” does a riotous three-minute spoof of “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
This time, the spoof features the Rockettes, the Chipmunks and the Vienna Boys Choir.
The irony is that none of the current Four Plaids were old enough to even remember Sullivan, whose show went off the air in 1971, let alone the acts that made his variety program popular in the days before TV and pop music became so fragmented.
Theatre at the Center’s fictionalized foursome includes Rod Thomas as Frankie, Scott Stratton as Smudge, Frank J. Paul as Jinx and Jonathan Wagner as Sparky.
Thomas has become a regional music theater favorite.
The Georgia native has been a Chicago resident since the late 1990s after graduating from Northwestern University. He moved away for five years and came back for good in 2003.
Thomas has starred as a dashing song-and-dance man in a long list of hit regional shows such as “Guys and Dolls,”“Beauty and the Beast” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” The latter was at Theatre at the Center in July.
He said he once played in “Forever Plaid” in summer stock theater in Warsaw, Ind.
“You don’t have to be familiar with (the 1950s) to appreciate the music and humor,” Thomas said.
“The musical is like a time capsule. It appeals to older people for nostalgia, but it’s also a nice vehicle to introduce others to something different from what they’re hearing today.”
The comedy is universal. Each of the Plaids has a quirk.
Frankie has asthma, Smudge has stage fright and requires Rolaids, Jinx gets frequent nosebleeds, and Sparky wears a retainer and speaks with a lisp.
And they have their solos. Frankie, for example, comes in with “Stranger in Paradise.”
The show is directed by William Pullinsi.
“I live in (Chicago’s) Rogers Park (community),” Thomas said. “But I really appreciate what Pullinsi and the Theatre at the Center provides for the south suburbs.
“The North Side has an embarrassment of riches, but the south suburbs since (the demise of the ) Candlelight (Dinner Playhouse) and Drury Lane (Theatre) in Evergreen Park doesn’t have as much live theater.
“Pullinsi has a great passion for live theater.”
The Four Plaids may be “forever dead,” but they’re very much alive this holiday season in Munster.
Don Snider is a local freelance writer.