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THEATER REVIEW: “Plaid Tidings - A Special Holiday Edition of Forever Plaid” is irresistible

Remember those nerdy guys in high school who wheeled the A-V carts and liked to sing?

They’re back.

Yes, I know – Forever Plaid is dead. But that’s just part of their mystique.

You remember the story of the “semi-pro” quartet on the way to pick up their custom-made plaid tuxes for their first big gig. They were killed instantly when a bus full of teens on their way to the Beatles’ U.S. debut on the Ed Sullivan show slammed into them broadside (the kids survived just fine).

But now, Forever Plaid has gotten a heavenly reprieve and they’ve returned to the Old Globe for “Plaid Tidings - A Special Holiday Edition of Forever Plaid,” onstage through Dec. 30 at the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre.

The Christmas show plot’s a little goofy and the result a bit disjointed: Dropped on Earth for a reason they are not told, they spend a good part of the first act communing with songstress Rosemary Clooney from the Great Beyond (via notes dropped from above).

The note-dropping shtick quickly becomes tedious, but all is forgiven when they start to sing in that fab ’50s close-harmony style, especially with the trademark wild arrangements that run from Christmas standards to pop songs – sometimes in the same breath.

This quartet consists of Michael Winther (singing Frankie, on lead), Leo Daignault (Jinx, second tenor), David Brannen (Sparky, on baritone) and Jason Heil as bass Smudge.

Jinx still has nosebleeds, but Smudge is now the designated intellectual, opining that opening the show with a ballad has “a tendency to soporificize the audience” and noting “the Orwellian implications of ‘he sees you when you’re sleeping.’”

The song list is an eclectic combination of Christmas favorites and their old standards. The show includes a knockout parody from the previous Plaid incarnation: the Ed Sullivan show in 3 minutes, 11 seconds. Where else will you see the Vienna Boys’ Choir morphing into the Rockettes, dish jugglers, Liberace, Jose Jimenez, Birgit Nilsson, the Singing Nun and the chipmunks in less than five minutes?

The Plaids have been packing them in for nearly two decades now and have inspired legions of Plaid Heads, fans who see each show multiple times, sometimes even following them from one gig to another.

There’s something about that Four Freshmen/Hi-Lo’s close harmony that people (myself included) like to hear. And when you can swing Christmas favorites with arrangements like those used by the Plaids, how can you resist?

The details

“Plaid Tidings – A Special Holiday Edition of Forever Plaid” plays through Dec. 30 at the Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in Balboa Park.

Tuesday through Sunday at 7 p.m.; matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

For tickets, call (619) 234-5623 or visit www.TheOldGlobe.org.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.