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Professional cast of singers scurry ahead of Prizery curtain call

With just a few days left until show time, the cast of The Prizery’s new Christmas production “Forever Plaid Tidings” opens Dec. 12, and the all-male cast has been working tediously to memorize lines, harmonies and choreography in a short amount of time. 

Needless to say, cast members who arrived earlier this week have been rehearsing non-stop.

The director of the production is Chris Jones who has years of experience directing plays including musicals, comedies, dramas and tragedies.

“Forever Plaid Tidings” is a Christmas musical comedy about four dead guys who come back to earth on a secret mission, said Jones, and their mission is to bring happiness to everyone on Christmas. 

The play includes traditional Christmas favorites like “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “Joy To The World,” “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” and many more. 

“It’s just pure entertainment, and it has lots of comedy. Very funny,” Jones said of the production. 

His favorite part of the play is the old traditional Christmas songs and when they reenact some of the old Perry Como TV specials and Ed Sullivan Show.

“The nostalgia is fun for me. I was a little kid when those shows were coming on,” the director said.

He said all the music is four-part harmony like a barbershop quartet, and the cast is made up of all professional singers.

According to Jones, the cast was chosen by recommendations, previous performances and video clips the guys sent in.

Jacob Estes, who portrays Smudge in the play, also participated in The Prizery’s Summer Theater two summers in a row most notably starring as Warner in “Legally Blonde,” the musical performed this past July.

“Very strong performer and strong singer,” Jones said describing the 20-year-old from Tennessee who has been involved in theater since the second grade after seeing a Broadway production of “Annie.” 

Estes’ professional career started in college when he got his first break working in The Prizery’s Summer Theater.

He plays Smudge in “Forever Plaid Tidings,” a character he describes as the brainiac of the bunch.

 Portraying Smudge is sometimes challenging because the character uses so many large words, and being from Tennessee, Estes said his dialect isn’t the best, so sometimes he has to seek assistance from Jones on how to pronounce the words. 

His favorite part of the show is the audience participation.

“I love the audience participation in the show. It’s a lot of fun to break the fourth wall because in a lot of shows you don’t ever get to do that, and you get to have just as much fun as they do and interact,” Estes said.

He said the intimacy between the cast members is what he enjoys the most about being a part of this production.

“We get to day and night know each other and get to become close friends, and I think it will show on the stage,” he said.

He hopes the audience leaves the show with Christmas on their minds and smiles on their faces. 

Even though the cast only has few days to rehearse, he feels confident they will give a strong “phenomenal” performance.

“It’s long days, but they’re fun days. It’s going to be interesting to say the least. I have full confidence that the show is going to be phenomenal because we have such a strong cast. When we get to rehearsal, there’s no messing around. We get right down to it, and if anybody can do it, we can,” he said.

He plans to audition for next year’s Summer Theater too.

Brad Bass also has worked previously in The Prizery Summer Theater Celebration. He directed July’s production of “Legally Blonde” and choreographed the productions this past summer.

“Quite an amazing performer,” Jones said of Bass.

Bass has been involved in theater since childhood and in theater professionally since the age of 18. He spent 12 years on Broadway acting in plays like “Wicked,” “Memphis” and “Jersey Boys.”  

Originally from Ringgold, he is currently the musical theater artist in residence at Averett University. 

He portrays the character of Sparky in the production and also serves as the choreographer.

His favorite part of the play is the camaraderie between the cast members.

“We have a great time, and the audience is going to love it,” he said. “I like the fact that there is theater in Tobaccoville Virginia, and in tobacco country we have some really great theater going on, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

The most challenging part about preparing in such a short amount of time, according to Bass, is having to learn the four-part harmonies and memorizing an 80-page script. 

Another participant, Brandon Wilhelm, was recommended to Jones by a previous choreographer The Prizery had worked with one summer. 

The 24-year-old is from Chicago by way of Texas and has been involved in theater since his senior year in high school when was more of a choir person than into theater. 

A love of singing and enjoyment of musical theater is what got him involved in theater. He has performed in several productions such as the “Fantastics,” “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” and “Zombie Prom,” and he soon will be in the production “Pinkalicious” the musical. 

In “Forever Plaid Tidings” he portrays the character of Jinx.

“He’s a tenor one. He sings really high, and he is very nervous a lot. He’s probably the most affected by stage fright out of the four guys and probably the most reserved. He also gets nosebleeds occasionally from singing high. In the show, he kind of has his coming out moment where he’s coming into his own and finds confidence,” Wilhelm said of his character.

 His favorite part of the play occurs when they sing the last song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” because “it’s full of awesome harmonies.”

He also said he enjoys the Ed Sullivan skits.

“The show has so many fun moments and is really fast-paced and has high energy all the time,” he added.

Like Bass he too enjoys the camaraderie he and other cast members share.

“I’ve only been in South Boston since Saturday, and I feel like I’ve known the other three cast members, and I feel like we’ve been here forever, and we get to know each other really well because we spend so much time together, and we have to trust each other because you’re on stage with each other, and they have to have your back, and you have to have theirs. It’s a fast bonding experience where you can make friends for a lifetime,” he added.

Wilhelm said it was dream come true to be able to portray Jinx.

Matt McCubbin, the final of the four, was recommend by a previous assistant set designer who was classmates with McCubbin in college. 

McCubbin is from Roanoke and has been involved in theater professionally since he graduated college in 2011 having done a countless number of shows at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg and various college productions.

While he has done some straight acting, musicals are his “bread and butter.”

In the production, he portrays Frankie who he describes as the leader of the group who keeps everyone focused on the reason they were brought back to earth.

This is the smallest cast he has ever been in, and McCubbin said he likes the closeness because they’re like a close-knit family, and everyone gets along really well.

 He said it was very challenging having to learn the songs and script on his own. 

Although he enjoys the challenge, the harmonies were hard to learn. He also said during the short amount of time they have to rehearse he has been eating, drinking and sleeping “Forever Plaid Tidings” practicing whenever he gets the chance. 

Opening night is Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. with shows on the 13,14, 17, 19, 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m. and shows on Dec. 14, 15, 18, 21 and 22 at 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling The Prizery at 434-572-8339 and online at www.prizery.com.