Arts & Culture

'Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings' playing at The Clark Center

The Plaids are back, and this time they are ghosts of Christmas past, a four-member guy group singing close harmonies in the style of the Four Freshmen and the Four Aces, giving songs from the 1950s and ’60s a holiday flavor.

“Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings” is a sequel to the popular “Forever Plaid,” a musical revue by Stuart Ross. Sorcerer Productions had enthusiastic sold out houses in the Clark Center’s Studio Theatre for the production of “Forever Plaid,” so the sequel seemed like a good idea for Sorcerer’s first holiday season, said director Natalia Berryman.

“It’s a great way to brighten spirits,” she said.

“Plaid Tidings” continues the first show’s narrative thread: The Plaids, a quartet of post-high school singers, were on the way to their first big gig when their convertible was hit by a van filled with girls from a Catholic school headed for the appearance of The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” (This seems to be a metaphor for that pivotal moment in musical history.) The girls survived to scream for the Beatles, but the boys were killed. In “Forever Plaid” the boys were given a chance to return for one last gig.

Apparently, the foursome returned to the afterlife after their performance. This time, a heavenly cell phone call from singer Rosemary Clooney suggests that they return to the land of the living one more time to cheer folks up and put harmony in a discordant world. So they trade their plaid jackets for red ones and turn to songs of the season, from traditional songs in Perry Como style to lively numbers that weave holiday lyrics into familiar popular tunes.

Berryman calls it “Yuletide cool.”

It’s jazzier this time, she said, but also a bit sad as the boys discover love through Christmas and take care of some unfinished family business. There’s a monologue about putting issues aside for one day and truly being a family.

Three members of the cast are reprising their roles. Cody Pettit is Frankie, leader of the group. Mark Rohmer is Jinx, the sweet blond tenor, and the funny, lovable Smudge, with the deepest voice, is played by Christian Carno. Scott Nelson, a music major at Cal Poly, takes over the role of Sparky.

Although it’s more of amusical revue than a play, the personalities of the boys are developed as they kid each other and reveal bits of their personal stories. The small Studio Theatre at the Clark Center makes it an intimate show, with opportunities for audience interaction.

Music Director Mark Robertshaw is at the piano and Brian Lanzone joins him on bass.

The singers recap some of the numbers in the original “Forever Plaid,” the director explained, but they also create some clever combinations of holiday lyrics and pop tunes of the time. For example, “Let It Snow” is woven into the tune of “Heart and Soul” and a Christmas carol gets a calypso beat. Songs from familiar musicals are woven in as well, Berryman said, “giving the show a musical-theater quality.”

The three minute and 11 second version of “The Ed Sullivan Show” is speedily presented again, but this time the acts are The Rockettes, The Chipmunks and the Vienna Boys Choir.

This is a show for the whole family, the director said. Adults will appreciate the skillful harmonies and the nostalgia, and younger audience members will share the fun of the comedy and high spirits.