"Plaid Tidings" Brings Holiday Cheer to Dexter

The holiday-inspired sequel to "Forever Plaid" is playing at the Encore Musical Theatre.

Sequels can be tricky. I was skeptical about this show since I am such a huge Forever Plaid fan, but Plaid Tidings won me over with its adorable humor, catchy songs, and killer four-part harmonies.

Plaid Tidings picks up where the original show left off, with the Plaids being sent back to Earth from heaven to do something they've never done before, perform a holiday concert. With a little help from an also deceased Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby, the Plaids deliver their holiday masterpiece.

This incarnation of the Encore's Plaids — Sebastian Gerstner (Sparky), Rusty Mewha (Smudge), Kevin Rose (Jinx), and Brian Thibault (Frankie) — had some pretty big plaid blazers to fill, since their original counterparts were so exceptional (Gerstner is the only returning cast member from Forever Plaid) but they all do a great job of making the character their own and work fantastically together both physically and musically.

Each of the men had their moments to shine. I especially enjoyed Rose on "Besame Mucho" and "Kiss of Fire;" Mewha on everything his booming bass voice touched; and Thibault in his Act 2 monologue.

My favorite songs were "Sh-Boom" and "Carol of the Bells," with the plungers and hand bells added in. While the four men worked flawlessly together on their harmonies, I didn't find the lead line of all the songs as flawless. Often the lead was overpowered by the harmonies behind it. Kudos to Gerstner for being the strongest lead voice. His voice took the lead perfectly when called for and blended into the harmony when needed.

I found the opening sequence a little sloppy. The pre-show music faded out too fast into nothing, and flashing the theater's house lights to signal the show's start, rather than slowly dimming them, is something I'm not sure I've seen professional theaters do before.

I missed the personal touch of the live curtain speech, but I did attend a different night during the run than normal, so maybe it isn't something the company does for every performance. I found the pre-recorded announcement of the opening a little hard to understand.

Visually the show was superb. Sets, lights, costumes, and properties all worked together for a great atmosphere. The simplicity of the set really let the actors and the choreography shine through. I really liked the delivery of the mail messages to the Plaids on stage, as well as the little notes turning up in various places. Don't be surprised as an audience member if you end up as a prop in the show, as well.

Plaid Tidings runs at The Encore Musical Theatre Company through Dec. 23. For ticket information, call 734-268-6200 or http://theencoretheatre.org.


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