‘Plaid Tidings’ merges nostalgia, humor and music in BST show

December 2, 2016

It’s a question we occasionally ask ourselves: “Why are we here?”

Posed by a member of the quartet, Forever Plaid, in Billings Studio Theatre’s nostalgic and fun musical, “Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings,” it takes on a less serious tone. The musical opens Friday, Dec. 2, and runs through Dec. 18.

Director Susan Sommerfeld said that’s the point of this light-hearted production — have some fun.

“Everyone needs to come see this show to decompress, be silly,” Sommerfeld said.

Sommerfeld returns to direct the Christmas-themed sequel to “Forever Plaid,” assembling two of the original four cast members from the 2013 production at BST.

Dan Jurovich and Bret Weston return to the show with newcomers Mark Jurovich, who is Dan’s brother, and Evan Ulrich. Recent University of Montana music school graduate Sean Brogan returns to his hometown of Billings to serve as music director and Billings Symphony bass player Robin Martinez brings his expertise at stand-up and electric bass. Brogan and Martinez perform on stage with the vocalists.

The back story of the quartet is that they died on their way to their first gig when their vehicle was hit by a school bus filled with girls traveling to catch the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 9, 1964. In the earlier production, the quartet comes back to earth to perform their dream show.

“Plaid Tidings” has the foursome again entering the stage amid a cloud of fog, confused about why they are being brought back to earth.

Thirty songs, including classic boy-band songs from the 1950s and ’60s and traditional Christmas music, are included in the score, and BST is using 25 of them.

Sommerfeld choreographed simple moves for the cast since the vocal harmonies and unique arrangements and mash-ups combining different songs makes for a challenging score. Expect tight harmonies from some of Billings’ best vocalists, including the brotherly harmonies of the Jurovich brothers.

“These are really clever arrangements, but difficult ones,” Sommerfeld said. “But these guys are amazing.”

During rehearsal on Monday night, the bewildered quartet stumbles on stage, asking a small preview audience, “What year is it?”

They are dressed in their best tuxes with the plaid jackets and decide they need to find their purpose, and brush up their singing chops once again. Interspersed with the songs is their cornball humor.

“We could have the greatest comeback since capris pants,” one member gushes.

A decked-out holiday stage, glimpses of iconic 1960s television moments, and four great singers crooning the oldies — “Plaid Tidings” won’t change the world, but it will make you smile.