Review: Wrap Up Your Christmas List in Plaid at Bucks County Playhouse

new hope free press plaid tidingsby John Dwyer and Herb Millman

It was just the other night that we snuggled into our sofa with a cup of tea to watch what is an American tradition — the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree (and to see the low-cut dress that Mariah Carey was poured into). We all have our traditions, and a new one for our household will be to visit the Bucks County Playhouse each year before Christmas to enjoy some holiday cheer.
Plaid Tidings offers G-rated family entertainment that is is “gosh-gee!” from beginning to end. There may be a few eye-rolling puns or hokey set-ups, but the goodwill and the cozy memories of a Baby Boomer’s Christmas past is so appreciated. What better gift than to bring child in hand and heart to hear so many Christmas favorites performed by some truly amazing talent?
Like many of its musical theater predecessors, this basically is a musical review brought together to present us with great music and showcase brilliant performers and in this case we have a trifecta. We are also celebrating the holiday season with some clever sketch material.  As Ira Gershwin might say, “Who could ask for anything more?”
As has been common with many musical reviews when there is a plot, the plot is so slender it is easily missed.  The concept is that in the 1960s there were four young lads who call themselves “The Plaids” who  were heading to their first big gig. They fantasized of making it big, like their idols, the soft pop harmony group the Four Freshman.   Unfortunately, they were hit by a busload of nuns and Catholic teens on the day the Beatles were coming to New York to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Now they have been sent back to earth at Christmastime to fufill a secret mission. What could it be?  The title tells it all.
Picking a favorite performer would be like singling out one of Santa’s reindeer and saying the rest are slackers. This is an ensemble piece. All the guys are needed to fly this sleigh and they all are soaring. Nick Cearley as Sparky is adorable.  He last appeared at the Bucks County Playhouse as Brad in October in Rocky Horror Show. He has incredible timing and musical comedy panache — a performer to see no matter what he is in because he is that good.
Sean Bell is equally wonderful as Smudge, the bespectacled Plaid who, when he loses his glasses, is hilarious. Frankie (Ben Mayne) gives us a surprising rendition of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer that will warm the cockles of your heart, then totally switches gears to give us a rap version of “Twuz the Night Before Xmas.”  Jinx is the center piece of the Ed Sullivan show where the entire cast gives an entire variety show in less than four minutes. That piece of theater blows one away and is worth the cost of the theater ticket alone.
There is also a wonderful tribute to Perry Como that will warm any Baby Boomer’s heart, along with several moments of audience participation that are great fun, with the entire audience singing in Act One and an audience member brought onstage to play bells as the Plaids sing Mr. Santa to the tune of Mr. Sandman. I have to confess, I am a sucker for sing-alongs. It’s kind of corny, but I loved that and by the end of the show, the Plaids have accomplished their mission. Peace on earth; good will to men. One feels it as one exits the Playhouse doors.

This is a well-rounded show that is true family entertainment for children of all ages.  Plaid Tidings runs thru Dec. 28. Tickets are $25-$52.50. Call (215) 862-2121 or purchase online. And wait: Just got a text from Santa — gift certificates are available for truly good boys and girls. Happy holidays!

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