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Bob Goepfert Reviews "Plaid Tidings"

Fellow cynics beware the production of “Plaid Tidings” playing at Cohoes Music Hall through Sunday.  It’s like being trapped in an elevator that has an endless loop of music that plays every holiday song ever written.

Adding to the sweetness quotient is the songs are sung by four likeable musical nerds who perform as “The Plaids” and think four part harmony is God’s gift to music. 

Now that I’ve perhaps discouraged the cynics from attending the show, let me encourage those who love the holidays, sweetness and good will to see “Plaid Tidings.”  It’s a pleasant two hours of entertainment that demands very little from the audience and will, most likely, put a smile on your face.

“Plaid Tidings” is a sequel to “Forever Plaid” which has played Cohoes Music Hall twice.   In fact two members if the cast John Farchione (Jinx) and Scott Scaffidi (Sparky) were in a CMH production of the musical.   The new performers, Carl Del Buono (Smudge) and Chris Shore (Frankie) fit seamlessly into the quartet.

The Plaids were an aspiring “guy group” who were killed in an accident involving a bus load of Catholic school girls on their way to the Ed Sullivan Show to see the Beatles in their American premiere performance.  They were granted the opportunity to return to earth to perform the concert they were denied in life.

In “Tidings” they do not know why they are back on earth and the first act has them deciphering mysterious messages from above – mostly from Rosemary Clooney – as to their purpose.  Actually the device offers them an opportunity to perform 50s and 60s music other than Christmas tunes.  The opening segment offers renditions of “ Sh-Boom,” “Strangers in Paradise,” “Mambo Italiano” “Fever” and “Besame Mucho.”

Once they realize they were sent to bring harmony to the holidays they take a break and return for a second act filled with nostalgia and holiday music. 

For those who loved the original show, you will also be fond of this work.  “Tidings” does not try to reinvent things that work.  The guys are awkward and insecure but very sincere in their love of music.  The cast works well together and while each has a strong individual moment the strength of the show is the harmonizing.

To play it safe, this sequel uses successful elements of the first.   There is an ode to Perry Como, and the guys even sing along with a videotape of the crooner.   There is another 3 minute, 11 second version of the Ed Sullivan Show and the first act ends with an outrageous audience participation of a Calypso number.  Just as in the first, they do a number using plumber helpers as a microphone.

Michael Susko directs the piece with affection and that comes across in performance.  He does not strive for anything fresh or exciting, instead he focuses on what works.  That is finding the spirit of the holidays for audiences who appreciate such entertainments.

For the cynic, “Plaid Tidings” is a fabricated piece of franchise theater that manipulates the emotions.  For others, it is a sweet work that reminds one of the tenderness and values of the holidays.  

“Plaid Tidings” at Cohoes Music Hall, Remsen Street, Cohoes. Through Sunday.  Performances 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.  237-5858

Bob Goepfert is the arts editor for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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