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Mill Town Players “Plaid Tidings" Brings Great Joy for the Season 

By Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer 

Looking for a sweet, fun, enjoyable show holiday show to get you through this hectic season? The Mill Town Players’ “Plaid Tidings” is just the ticket.

A followup to “Forever Plaid,” the tale of a young quartet (“The Plaids”) who could have been famous if not for their untimely deaths in a 1964 auto crash (they were hit by a bus full of teenagers on their way to see the Beatles), who have now been sent back to Earth from the cosmos for one more visit. 

Their new mission? To help spread the wonder of the holiday spirit. The Plaids’ members — Frankie (Drew Whitley), Sparky (Mark Spung-Wiles), Jinx (Aaron Pennington) and Smudge (Dalton Cole) — kick off the show with a good look around the theater and concluding that the audience sure looks a lot older than they did on the group’s last visit to Earth.

It takes the quartet a bit to realize their holiday mission, with a fair portion of the initially somewhat slow first act connecting to the group’s past musical numbers, including a medley of their “would have been” hits.  

But the Plaids hit their stride when, with the help of Rosemary Clooney, they move into a wonderful, hilarious run of new spins on holiday favorites. Channeling Harry Belfante, one calypso number, which continues to repeat “in excelsis da-a-ay-o,” let’s the audience know they are in for a fun ride for the rest of the show.

And fun it is. Their recreation of “The Ed Sullivan Show,” complete with Topo Gigio, the Flying Wallendas, a plate spinner, a dog act and more, is one of the most delightful moments I’ve witnessed on a local stage. (Kudos to Kim Granner who designed the scene’s wonderful madness.)

The harmonies, a mixture of barbershop harmony and Four Seasons, are tight, and, after a bumpy start, the comedy works, especially when it’s just plain silly.  

Aaron Pennington, who steals almost every scene, is hilarious as he evokes Lou Costello to the point one half expects him to shout “Hey Abbott!”  

The rest of the cast also delivers, including Spung-Wiles’ energetic and amazing (and strange) cover of Peggy Lee’s “Fever.” Spung-Wiles near-frenetic movement thoughout gives momentum to the play Just when things start to slow a bit. Cole brings not only a calming presence, but a much needed lower-register voice, and his solos of straight Christmas numbers shine. Meanwhile Whitley is in top form wearing an island hat and leading the audience in a Christmas-inspired “Matilda” singalong. 

Chase McAbee, on piano, and Anderson Legend John Brookshire, on upright bass, provide almost all of the production’s lively music in style.

And “Perry Como” also puts in a noteable, if somewhat stiff, cameo as himself near the end. You don’t want to miss it.  

If you need help getting in the Christmas spirit this year, there’s no place like The Mill Town Players “Plaid Tidings” for the holidays. And there are still two more weekends of shows. Tickets are $12 and available here, at the door or by calling 864-947-8000. 

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