This tunefully jolly Christmas show presents four talented singer/actors – Kris Marc-Joseph, Laurie Denman, Alex Bloomer and Joshua Da Costa – who really know how to work well together in a small space. Stuart Ross’s play is billed as a 'holiday sequel' to his earlier Forever Plaid and features – mostly in short bursts and slick medleys – almost every Christmas song, carol or tune you can think of.
The Plaids are a close harmony group who died in a Pensylvania road crash in 1964. Now, for reasons they don’t quite understand, the celestial powers-that-be have sent them back to do one more show on earth. Cue for much interplay between the four of them and puzzlement over, for example, mobile phones and other 2018 issues.
Musically directed by versatile (good falsetto too) Laurie Denman on keyboard, the singing is splendid. Whether it’s Gregorian chant or Santa Baby these four sing beautifully together with almost every harmony accurately nuanced. There is a handbell sequence which is fun too (I wonder how long it took to rehearse?) and sometimes the quartet play percussion instruments as they sing.
Joshua Da Costa, who sings the bass parts with warmth, is especially impressive. Twice he started a number 'cold' and unaccompanied – but perfectly in tune as we can all hear when the accompaniment joins him. Alex Bloomer’s Sparky is a gentle, wide-eyed character in whom the actor finds plenty of feisty vulnerability. Kris Marc-Joseph brings lots of personality and charisma to the quartet especially in his well controlled solo number.
Director Guy Retallack clearly knows how to make the best of his modest but delightful SE20 (there’s always a Penge joke and this show is no exception) pub theatre space. The quartet dance, create formations and use the podium edge as well as making masses of eye contact with the very close audience. Retallack also ensures that we react to each man as an individual as well as part of the group.
The fresh originality of this show is a welcome antidote to seasonal theatrical saccharine and pantomimes.