Date: 18 November, 2003
: The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts

Reviewer: John Jane


The Plaids are Smudge, Sparky, Jinx & Frankie
Photo: David Cooper
Vancouver’s Centre for the Performing Arts officially kicked-off their Christmas season last Tuesday (14th November) when the management threw the switch that turned on 21,000 Christmas lights. A couple of hours later the Homer Street theatre celebrated the opening of Plaid Tidings, a delightful festive production and the sequel to the extremely popular Forever Plaid.

Original creator Stuart Ross has brought back this wholesome quartet - Sparky, Smudge, Jinx and Frankie - who are somehow cosmically transported from where they met their demise in 1964 to Vancouver, 2003, so that they may fulfill their dream of presenting a Christmas Special. The result turned out to be a charming evening of smooth vocals and genial comedy by four very talented actors, helmed by a director who understood the meaning of being Plaid.

While there was a slight pace problem at the beginning which could simply be related to opening night jitters, the four-part harmonies were tight and strong with all four voices blending perfectly.

The rather sparse audience warmed up to the show from the first song, “Stranger in Paradise” and even appeared to empathise with the group’s confusion over place and time.

Individual standout performances were by David Humphrey in the part of Frankie and Dale R. Miller, perfect as the nerdy Smudge, right down to his Buddy Holly glasses. He may have been the scene-stealer of the evening. His Christmas soliloquy halfway through the first act was perhaps a pivotal point in the show.






Humphrey’s Frankie provided the spiritual compass for the foursome, constantly guiding his band-mates towards their purpose for the show. He also served as a link with the audience. His unique solo performance of “Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer”, which started the second act was priceless.

Of the four performers, Greg Armstrong-Morris was probably the best known to Vancouver theatre goers. As Plaid member Sparky, his monologue on the band’s Perry Como encounter in the second act, evoked both pathos and joy.

Matt Palmer delivered a strong performance as the clumsy (and aptly nick-named), Jinx. While his comic shtick in his solo rendition of “Bèsame Mucho” missed the mark, he certainly held his own with goofy fun throughout the show.

Special praise should go to Musical Director, Doug Balfour, who aside from his ‘union break’, was on stage throughout the evening (along with Miles Hill on double bass) providing sterling piano accompaniment.

Of the more than thirty songs listed in the programme, about half were well-known Christmas tunes.
Many of the songs were arranged as medleys, especially , in an entertaining Harry Belafonte tribute medley that included ‘Jamaica Farewell’, ‘Matilda’, ‘Day-O’ and ‘Kingston Market’.

The Plaids in the seasonal revue - Plaid Tidings
Photo: David Cooper

The Plaids may have given us a Christmas message that we could all learn from - Its great to have dreams, but let us also be grateful for the small gifts.

© 2003, John Jane