Fans of ‘50s and ‘60s pop music and the all-male or all-female groups that sang it looking to take a break from the holiday hustle and bustle might consider heading to Sonoma for some respite. Sonoma Arts Live is presenting Plaid Tidings and Winter Wonderettes in “rep”, two jukebox musicals draped in holiday trimmings that feature songs and musical stylings that will remind you of such groups as the Four Aces or the Maguire Sisters.
Both shows contain the usual jukebox musical trappings – a threadbare plot on which a bunch of familiar tunes (or their derivatives) can be hung to be performed by energetic casts on a minimalist set. These shows are all about the music.
Plaid Tidings is the holiday version of the popular Forever Plaid, which told the tale of four young singers – cut down before they got their big break – returning to Earth to give the show they wished they could. Tidings has the four plaid-jacketed guys (Trevor Hoffman, Andrew Smith, Scottie Woodard, Brian Watson) back from the netherworld and singing once more. They’re not sure why they’ve been sent back but after an hour of singing such non-holiday fare as “Stranger in Paradise”, “Besamé Mucho”, and “Mambo Italiano”, they realize they’re back to perform a Christmas show! In no time, they’re singing “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” with Perry Como and other standard holiday fare with a “plaid” twist.
Winter Wonderettes is the holiday version of The Marvelous Wonderettes, which related the story of four high school friends who form a Songleader squad. Winter finds the girls (Julianne Bradbury, Sarah Lundstrum, Maeve Smith, Jenny Veilleux) performing at the annual Harper’s Hardware Holiday Party, where they perform such holiday tunes as “O Tannenbaum”, “Santa Claus is Comin to Town”, and “Run Rudolph Run”. All seems to be going well until one of them gets the present of a pink slip for Christmas.
Fear not, that lump of coal will be turned into a diamond before the end of the not-so-silent night!
Director Michael Ross has eight talented individuals in the groups-of-four performing on alternating evenings/afternoons. He’s managed to lasso triple-threat performers who can sing, act, and dance, and – in Woodard’s case – a quadruple threat, as he’s choreographed the show as well. There’s a lot of movement in these shows, and Woodard brings both a familiarity and originality to the stylings for which these types of performing groups were known.
Winter Wonderettes is the stronger of the two shows, with the book by Roger Bean containing more clearly-defined (though still stock) characters and a sturdier (though still thin) plot. It also leans more heavily into the holiday season, both in plot and song selection.
Plaid Tidings does have its goofy charms, best captured in a reprise of its original’s three minute-plus recreation of a typical Ed Sullivan Show.
Sherrill Peterson leads musicians Elaine Herrick, Elizabeth Dreyer Robertson, Brendan Buss, and Steve Cohen playing in energetic support in various combinations for the two shows.
Both shows have two acts that run about 45 minutes each plus a 15 to 20-minute intermission.
If you’re looking to sit back and chill (and Andrews Hall is a little chilly) for 90-plus minutes listening to some well-performed holiday music while silly shenanigans take place on stage, then check out one (or both) of these shows.
‘Plaid Tidings’ runs through Dec 18 and ‘Winter Wonderettes’ runs through Dec. 19 at Andrews Hall in the Sonoma Community Center, 276 E. Napa St., Sonoma. Thur–Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2pm. $25–$42. 866.710.8942. sonomaartslive.org.
Proof of vaccination and masking are required to attend.
Photos by James Carr