By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
The harmonal balance is way off among the quartet of singers in One Thirty Productions' Plaid Tidings, the holiday musical now doing matinees at the Bath House Cultural Center. But does it matter? This is writer Stuart Ross' terrible sequel to his awful show Forever Plaid, which was about a second-rate all-male doo-wop group who died before they got their big break, then get one last day on earth to sing close-harmony in concert.
Plaid Tidings finds the same characters, Jinx (Dennis Yslas), Smudge (Jordan Willis), Sparky (Brian Hathaway) and Frankie (Stan Graner), wandering around in the afterlife in tartan sport coats, wondering about their purpose. (A theme Avenue Q does about 10 thousand times better and with a dynamite script that doesn't sound as if it were scribbled in Jell-O on cocktail napkins.)
Remember back to Yuletides of yore when your grandparents gathered the clan around the Zenith to watch Christmas specials starring the King Family, the Osmonds and Bing Crosby. Now imagine all those classic carols, holiday ballads and for-the-heck-of-it 1950s jukebox picks sung by one guy (Hathaway) crooning melodies and three back-ups singing always just a smidge off-key and off-tempo. That's Plaid Tidings. Among the songs getting strangled: "Jingle Bells," "Joy to the World," "Let It Snow," "Mambo Italiano," "Mr. Santa" (sung to the tune of "Mr. Sandman") and too many more to list. Too many more to listen to, frankly, without indulging in fantasies about self-induced eardrum puncturing. (Pianist Royce Cooper plays the score as if he's accompanying the boys out of spite.)
The murdering of the music quickly becomes a running joke, however, and a pretty good one in One Thirty's staging, directed by Gene Raye Price, with a choreographic assist from B.J. Cleveland. The worse they sing, the funnier Hathaway (the one good singer of the foursome), Willis, Yslas and Graner are to watch. A lengthy slapstick bit involving dozens of vintage-reference props (Remember Señor Wences and his fist-puppet? Remember Topo Gigio, the little Italian mouse?) keeps Plaid Tidings from wassailing out to sea completely.
To paraphrase another old Christmas fave, do you hear what I hear? Some really rotten singing in Plaid Tidings and a lot of audience laughter just about drowning it out.