Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: DECEMBER 10, 2010
Dig out your old bowtie and prom dress; Plaid and Taffeta are making a comeback this season.
In a timewarp to the 1950s, girl and guy vocal quartets are tearing up local stages, as The Taffetas and the Plaids. Of course you remember “Forever Plaid,” the corny, silly but irresistible musical revue that has played San Diego numerous times, in extended runs.
But you may not be familiar with “The Taffetas,” which also premiered Off Broadway two decades ago – but two years before the Plaids.
Now, both groups, and their glorious, ultra-tight harmonies, are in town with holiday shows: “Plaid Tidings” at the Old Globe, and the Pickwick Players/ OnStage Playhouse production of “A Taffeta Christmas.” Not only are the setups similar — geeky foursomes who were bigger in their own minds than in the public’s — they even sing some of the same songs, and both have mashup Christmas medleys. In another ironic convergence, the Taffetas are touting their new Christmas album, entitled ‘Taffeta Tidings.’
Of course, there are differences. The girls are sisters, making their return to the Moose Lodge in their hometown of Muncie , Indiana . They still live in the ‘50s. The Plaids are long dead, the high school buddies having been killed in a car accident in 1954. In “Forever Plaid,” they returned from the Other Side to complete the unresolved chord of their lives. But they couldn’t rest in peace, so here they are again.
The foursomes’ inspirations are a bit arcane, to say the least. The Plaids’ are devotees of Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney. The Taffetas are fans of Mario Lanza. Does anyone under 50 relate to this? Or Ed Sullivan, for that matter, who makes another appearance in “Plaid Tidings,” so the guys can perform on his Christmas Special.
But really, plot is the least concern in both these shows. It’s all about the singing. And despite the fact that one production is high-end and all Equity, while the other is bare-bones community theater , in both productions, the singing is superb, and the harmonies divine.
At the Old Globe, two locals join two Plaid veterans for a delectable production that showcases the group’s wildly diverse array of talents, from juggling to tap-dancing, piano playing to fire-swallowing. Creator/director/choreographer Stuart Ross has recycled a good deal of his original cash-cow, but it’s still rollicking good fun, and his characters and script are a lot more clever than those of Rick Lewis, who gave life to the Taffetas. Pickwick director Thomas Fitzpatrick doesn’t make many demands on the gals other than vocal, but they certainly rise to the occasion. And both groups are backed by excellent musical directors, arrangers and pianists.
So if your life could use a little harmony this holiday season, you know just where to go.
“A Taffeta Christmas” runs through December 12 at the Rolando Theatre.
“Plaid Tidings” continues through December 26 at the Old Globe.
©2010 PAT LAUNER