Reviews

Rejoice and Be Plaid!

Smudge (Sean Nugent), Jinx (Brian Skellenger), Sparky (Jared Oxborough), and Frankie (Justin Cooke) are at their best when blending voices on holiday classics. PHOTO CREDIT: Act One, Too Ltd.

Plaid Tidings. Holiday edition of Forever Plaid by Stuart Ross. Vocal and musical arrangements by James Raitt, Brad Ellis, Raymond Berg, and David Snyder. Chanhassen Dinner Theatres’ Fireside Theater through December 31. Dinner and show, $45-64; show only, $33-52. Tickets: 952/934-1525. www.Chanhas senDT.com.

The holiday season is fast approaching, as evidenced by the ornate window displays, festive billboards and large bins of Christmas-themed wrapping paper that have begun popping up in every direction. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the seemingly constant stream of advertisements, wish lists, and receipts (not to mention tangled Christmas lights), but Chanhassen Dinner Theatres’ latest production, Plaid Tidings, pokes loving fun at the consumerism of the holidays and invites us to step back and look at what really makes this season so special.

The show follows Frankie, Sparky, Jinx, and Smudge, four distinct voices that once made up the 1960s singing group The Plaids. These high school friends were on their way to fame and fortune, but their dreams were put on “hold” when they were tragically killed in a collision with a bus full of Catholic schoolgirls on their way to see the Beatles’ American television debut on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” But now The Plaids have been brought back to earth with a heavenly mission, and with the help of clues sent by none other than Rosemary Clooney, they set off to find and complete their assignment before they run out of time.

Each of the actors in this production shines. Justin Cooke (Frankie) exudes a sweet sincerity and youthful optimism that will make you want to sing along with him, and his energy drives many of the numbers.

Jared Oxborough plays mischievous Sparky with a wry grin and don’t-care attitude, but comes through with earnest emotion at just the right moments.

Sean Nugent’s Smudge is spot on as a quirky academic who is more of an idealist than he lets on. His vocal range is impressive, and his tender delivery of Nat King Cole’s “Merry Christmas” is one of the show’s high points.

PHOTO CREDIT: Act One, Too Ltd.

Their unwavering harmonies in Christmas classics like “Let it Snow,” “It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas,” and “Home For the Holidays” will certainly get your toes a-tapping.

But it is Brian Skellenger (Jinx) who steals the show with his endearing gawkiness and gentle tenor vocals. He captures the good-natured awkwardness of Jinx perfectly, and his body language adds as much humor to the performance as the lines themselves.

When these voices join together, the result is a blended and well-balanced sound that’s rarely heard these days without the help of audio processing. Their unwavering harmonies in Christmas classics like “Let it Snow,” “It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas,” and “Home For the Holidays” will certainly get your toes a-tapping.

But let’s not forget about the pit orchestra. Pianist Andrew Cooke and bassist Cory Carter interact playfully with The Plaids as they perform some of our most beloved Christmas tunes. Having them visible on stage during the whole show is a fun change.

All in all, Plaid Tidings is a thoroughly enjoyable experience guaranteed to make you sing, laugh, reminisce, and rediscover what you love about the holidays. Be prepared to leave humming.

Ella Masters is a first-year student at the University of Minnesota, and a member at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (ELCA), Minneapolis. She has appeared in a number of musical theater productions, including Guys and Dolls, Fiddler on the Roof, The Sound of Music, and Urine Town.

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