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A&E >  Entertainment

Musical revue brings dose of good cheer

Left to right, Preston Loomer (Sparky), Jonathan Barnes (Jinx), Nick Wittman (Smudge) and David Hardie (Frankie) perform a scene from Spokane Civic Theatre’s production of “Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings.” The play opens Friday and runs through Dec. 18. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Left to right, Preston Loomer (Sparky), Jonathan Barnes (Jinx), Nick Wittman (Smudge) and David Hardie (Frankie) perform a scene from Spokane Civic Theatre’s production of “Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings.” The play opens Friday and runs through Dec. 18. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Right in time for the holidays, “Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings” hits Spokane Civic Theatre on Friday, a rollicking, feel-good, willfully goofy Christmas comedy that’s plastered wall-to-wall with classic songs.

“It’s fun and wacky, and it should be very entertaining,” said director Kathie Doyle-Lipe, who’s no stranger to this kind of nostalgic variety show loaded with big musical numbers. “If people have seen and liked ‘Forever Plaid,’ it’s the holiday version of that. There are a couple of real touching moments, where the guys reveal events that happened to them in their lives. But mostly, there’s no big plot.”

The first “Forever Plaid” show was created by writer Stuart Ross in 1990, and the jukebox musical found off-Broadway success and has since become a popular selection of community and high school theater companies. “Plaid Tidings” revisits Ross’ characters and gives them a mostly new batch of songs to perform, but it also adds tinsel and wreaths and holiday cheer. It’s basically a revue of a revue.

As in its predecessor, the premise here is both darkly comic and charmingly old-fashioned. Set in the mid-’60s, both shows concern four guys – Frankie (David Hardie), Jinx (Jonathan Barnes), Smudge (Nick Wittman) and Sparky (Preston Loomer) – who have visions of doo-wop stardom in an era that’s ushering in rock ’n’ roll.

In the original “Forever Plaid,” that quartet was killed in an accident on their way to see the Beatles perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” but they’re given a second chance at stardom (by a benevolent Rosemary Clooney, no less) when they’re sent back to Earth. “Plaid Tidings” picks up where that story left off, with the friends returning in human form to spread some yuletide cheer.

The big draws of both “Plaid” shows are the soundtracks full of beloved songs. Some of the selections this time include “Stranger in Paradise,” “Besame Mucho” and “Life Could Be a Dream,” but there are also a handful of traditional Christmas tunes, as well as some original arrangements and musical medleys.

“It focuses more on Christmas than any other holiday in the season, but it tries to include them all,” Doyle-Lipe said. “It has a very universal, let’s love and care about each other (message), and if you live the right kind of life and try hard enough, you may still get to reach your dream.”

But it’s also a show about chemistry, both musical and personal, and Doyle-Lipe says her small but talented cast continues to develop a warm rapport as the show’s premiere draws nearer.

“I see growth in that every night, and I think in these next few nights we’ll see even more growth,” Doyle-Lipe said. “They were almost total strangers to each other. I think they’re doing a real good job. … Every day they get to know each other a little better. It’s coming along nicely.”

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