Traveling to the Covedale Center on Cincinnati’s West Side often feels like a trip back in time. The onetime movie theater on Glenway Avenue, today a thriving performing arts facility where Cincinnati Landmark Productions presents shows for mainstream audiences, was a popular teen hangout for Baby Boomers back in the ’50s and ’60s. Plaid Tidings, the holiday sequel to Forever Plaid, is a second-time reprise from Heaven for the “late” Doo-Wop quartet of Jinx, Sparky, Francis and Smudge, and it’s a perfect seasonal offering for area theatergoers.
It gets my nomination as the season’s most entertaining live onstage holiday show. That’s thanks to Tyler Huckstep, Charlie Meredith, John Battagliese and Thomas Knapp, four musical theater majors from UC’s College-Conservatory of Music, who surely don’t remember the era but are nevertheless recreating its Pop sound with pitch-perfect renditions of songs requiring close harmony, snappy choreography (by Patti James), “sharp” outfits (tartan dinner jackets, red cardigans and plaid ties designed by Caren Young) and plenty of cheesy humor. (These actors are Broadway-caliber singers and dancers. It’s often tough to catch CCM shows on campus where runs are very brief, so it’s a Christmas gift to have them onstage for several weeks.)
Steve Goers not only was the production’s able director and music director, he’s the onstage accompanist at a grand piano, wearing tails and black tie — able to pound out a bit of Tchaikovsky and transition right into “Heart and Soul.” He has a few bits of stage business with the Plaids as they work their way through clues (from no less a Pop music authority than Rosemary Clooney) about just what they’ve been brought back to do. It’s simple, really: Put on a Christmas revue, delivered with polish, sentiment and good cheer. There’s a Rap number, “Twaz the Night B4,” a Perry Como sing-along (crooner Como appears via a video clip from his popular ’60s variety show so the boys can provide him with backup vocals) and a three-minute-11-second distillation of the memorable and silly acts that frequented The Ed Sullivan Show. Even if you don’t remember these TV hits, you’ll laugh.
The show ends with lovely, warm rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” That’s just what the Plaids are providing this holiday season.
FOREVER PLAID: PLAID TIDINGS, presented by Cincinnati Landmark Productions at the Covedale Center for the Performing arts, continues through Dec. 21.