Last year, the Community Theatre League was forced to cancel its production of "Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings" when Nick Buckman - one of the show's lead actors - suffered a ruptured appendix a few days before opening night. "Plaid Tidings" tells the story of a singing group who has returned from the great beyond to take another shot at performing the Christmas special they never got to perform. If this premise sounds eerily similar to the situation Buckman found himself in when he was given another shot to come back (if not from the dead, then at least from the operating table) and perform the Christmas musical he was unable to perform last year, that's because it is. Chalk it up to an instance of life imitating art.
"Plaid Tidings" opens at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9 and will run Dec. 10 and 15 through 17, with a 2 p.m. performance Dec. 18 at the Community Theatre League, 100 W. Third St. The show is directed by Martena Rogers and stars Nick Buckman, Tom Degan, Jesse Janowiak and Jim Rogers.
"Plaid Tidings" is the sequel to "Forever Plaid," which was performed at CTL in 2002. The first show tells the story of Forever Plaid, a singing group who has been mysteriously returned to earth (after their untimely deaths) to perform one last show.
In "Plaid Tidings," the four members of Forever Plaid return once more to fulfill their dreams of putting on their very own Christmas special (a la Perry Como).
The show's music, according to Martena Rogers, is something of a mixed bag.
"Since the guys don't quite know why they're back at CTL, they start out by doing some songs that they didn't do in the first show, such as 'Strangers in Paradise,' 'Sh-Boom,' and 'Besame Mucho.' After they figure out that they are there to do their holiday show, they sing traditional Christmas songs," Rogers said.
Buckman said the group's harmonizing puts a unique spin on holiday favorites like "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and gives them that special "Plaid feeling."
Creating that special feeling, however, is by no means easy. According to Buckman, harmonizing is quite a lot of work.
"The music is far more complex and difficult than most stage musicals and with only one singer per part, there's no hiding if you don't know it," Buckman said. "It requires a lot of independent work and absolute confidence in oneself."
"Plaid Tidings" also is unique for the amount of interaction that goes on between actors and audience members. Buckman said the show's interactive aspect sets it apart from other musicals.
"The show is unusual in the total lack of a fourth wall-just as we performers are putting on a show, so too are the characters we play putting on a show, and thus we spend a lot of time speaking directly to the audience, interacting with them, and even drawing a volunteer at one point," Buckman said.
Both Buckman and Rogers were "Plaid" fans before they became involved in the production. "I've been desperate to be a 'Plaid' ever since I saw CTL's production of the first show some years ago," Buckman said.
The show's director was equally unable to contain her enthusiasm. "I am a Plaid fanatic!" Rogers exclaimed. "I've done 'Forever Plaid' four times in three different theaters and this is my first shot at 'Plaid Tidings.' I'd do it again!"
Rogers and Buckman said the rehearsals have been going very well so far.
"Since we completely rehearsed this show last year, this year has been a breeze," Rogers said. "The rehearsals have been fabulous. The guys get along so well, and they crack me up."
Buckman also attested to the camaraderie between the four leads.
"This is the most fun I've ever had preparing a show," Buckman said. "There's nothing like finding yourself as part of a group where everybody is alike enough that you're all on the same wavelength, while at the same time different enough to keep things interesting. There's rarely a rehearsal that goes by that I don't find myself cracking up at something one of the other guys did or said."
According to Buckman, he is feeling much better after his emergency procedure last year.
"Ha, yes, I'm right as rain, but that doesn't stop everybody connected with or interested in the show from being somewhat solicitous about my health (and, to a lesser extent, that of the other Plaids)," he said. "The other guys have joked that they're going to have their appendices preemptively removed to ensure the show goes up this time."
Everyone involved in the show has been waiting a year to see it premier, which means expectations are high.
"They say that the anticipation is the best part of the experience, so I can only hope that means that when the time comes, the wait will have only made the performance that much sweeter for everyone," Buckman said. "If nothing else, the extra rehearsals mean that much more time to make it better."
For more information about the show, contact CTL at 327-1777 or visit www.ctlnet.org.