“Plaid Tidings” at York Theatre Company at St. Peter’s (Closed Sunday December 27, 2015)

By Stuart Ross
Vocal and Musical Arrangements by James Raitt, Brad Ellis, Raymond Berg and David Snyder
Direction and Musical Staging by Stuart Ross
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Stuart Ross’s “Forever Plaid” has been presenting its four-part guy group for decades and has maintained a successful presence in part because of its connection to the pleasing feelings of nostalgia summoned by the performances of hits from the past. And also in part because of the consistently superior quality of the voices and the vocal and musical arrangements of those hits. The holiday sequel of “Plaid Tidings” currently running at the York Theatre Company is equally pleasing though not without problems.

“Plaid Tidings” is Mr. Ross’ holiday-specific show sporting over thirty songs that loosely relate to the themes of giving cheer and are meant to put the audience “in the mood to appreciate the good that is always around us.” The book concerns the post-accident, post-mortem return of the Plaids to Earth to fulfill a mission that eludes the foursome initially. But transmissions from Rosemary Clooney motivate the boys to perform the holiday show their earthly demise denied them and they find their way through their holiday songbook preventing heavenly wrath.

First, the good news. The quartet is splendid and the men have superb vocal skills in each of their ranges and blend their voices to perfection. Unfortunately, when one of the quartet is featured in a solo, the program does not give that singer credit and the audience has to depend on memory to identify the match between singer and song. This is a serious deficit in the design of the program and needs to be addressed. Apologies to the singers if the match given here is not spot on. Jinx’s (Ciaran McCarthy) “Besame Mucho” for example, though not particularly festive, is brilliant.

Smudge (John-Michael Zuerlein), Frankie (Bradley Beahen), and Sparky (Jose Luaces) also perform solo turns with equal brilliance and, of course, it is in the group’s four-part harmony that they excel. “Kingston Market” is outstanding as is “A Mixmaster Christmas” and “It’s the Most Wonderful time of the Year.” Unfortunately, very few of the thirty-plus songs are sung all the way through and are often featured with just a few lines from the song. It would seem more singing and less physical comedy would be preferable and the choice to try to string the songs together on a flimsy story line is less than successful. Next earthly visit more singing please, and less silliness.

Overall, however, the event is pleasurable and the opportunity to listen to fours voices blend in scintillating harmony does indeed give one hope for a brighter future. Look for the boys to back up Perry Como right on the St. Peter’s stage.