'Plaid' Celebrates Golden Oldies

As a Christmas confection, Oregon Cabaret Theatre's production of "Plaid Tidings," that opened last Friday, is "manner" from heaven. And how! And why? Because it brings back to earth the rollicking frolicking male quartet who so delighted us in two earlier OTC descents in "Forever Plaid" (1995/2005). "Plaid Tidings" is a very popular seasonal entertainment; some 20 versions are available in other states right now.

Stuart Ross originally hit on the idea of featuring a foursome that on its way to pick up its custom-made plaid blazers is broadsided by a Catholic school bus taking a bunch of girls to see the Beatles make their U.S. television debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show." The girls are unharmed, the guys killed instantly As a special dispensation, they are sent back to earth to perform the show they never got to do in life. It is set in a time before cell phones, instant video games and Tivo; a time when parents and their children listened to the same music.

So, what are the Plaids doing back again now? It's an undisclosed heavenly mission to perform unspecified "Harmonal Duties." Then they get a clue from Clooney - Rosemary, no less - in a phone call telling them to bring some harmony to an all-too-discordant world.

The show is directed and choreographed by Todd Nielsen with remarkable flair and zest. His touch is evident throughout, but I demur at the brief sexual indulgence near the end - an unfortunate departure from the show's overall wholesome spirit and squeaky cleanness.

There are some 34 songs featured in this production - (some are just snippets) -with vocal and musical arrangements by James Raitt, Brad Ellis, Raymond Berg, and David Snyder. For OCT, John Taylor, the music director, proves to be a most able pianist, accompanied by Bruce McKern on string bass.

Jim Giancarlo, OCT's artistic director, has put together an excellent cast. Their togetherness is both striking and touching, with what resembles a football huddle, and concern for a nosebleed of one of their number. Three are making their OCT and Plaid debuts - Adam Corcoran (Frankie), David Shane (Jinx), and Danny Webber (Smudge). The fourth is Marc Swan as Sparky, the role he played in an earlier OCT production (2005).

The guys at first are outfitted with plaid blazers, black slacks, white shirt and black bow tie, and a black cummerbund. After the intermission, they appear in a rose-colored cardigan, green shirt, dark green slacks, and a snazzy tie. All is the handiwork of resident costume designer, Kerri Lea Robbins. Craig Hudson, the set/lighting designer employs an attractive tartan frame motif, with a lush mauve shirred backdrop. He springs many surprises on us, notably at the end, with the snow drifting down.

The music ranges from "Stranger in Paradise" and "B&

233;same Mucho/ Kiss of Fire" to "Hey There" and "Mambo Italiano." The seasonal offerings include "The Christmas Song," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "Joy to the World," and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

One utterly joyous number is "Sh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream)" which the quartet dances with microphone-sized toilet plungers. Another high spot is the three-minute whirlwind version of "The Ed Sullivan Show" featuring the Rockettes and the Vienna Boys' Choir in passing. And for pure nostalgia what could beat the presentation of "The Perry Como Show" on black and white TV, with the Plaids providing back-up to their idol?

Not only do the quartet's voices blend well, their personalities do so, too, and they display high energy and athleticism, a warm humor, and caring (as when one of them escorts a lady from the audience off the stage after she has taken part in "Carol of the Bells").

"Plaid Tidings," then, adds up to a very merry musical melange. It plays at 8 p.m. nights and — p.m. Sundays, Nov. 16 through Dec. 31 except Nov. 19, 22, 27, Dec. 4, 11, 18, 24-25. Call: 488-2902.

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