One of the season’s theater offerings features a Passyunk Square performer singing holiday tunes in a bygone style.
This holiday season, Greg Nix and the other three members of the musical ensemble in “Plaid Tidings” are singing Christmas carols with a twist.
“It’s a funny story. It’s a strange one to explain. Basically, we’re a signing group of four guys who die on the way to our first big concert in 1964. They sing ’50s, four-part harmony, so they come back and they’re not sure why. … It turns out we’re here to do a Christmas special,” Nix, of 11th and Wharton streets, said.
“Plaid Tidings,” playing until Sunday at the Walnut Street Theatre, is a sequel to a popular 2002 production, “Forever Plaid.” In this reincarnation, audiences are serenaded with traditional holiday favorites, like “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” in new ways.
“It’s songs people have heard before in unique arrangements,” Nix, 26, said. “There are a couple original songs and a ton of retooled, funny versions of songs you’ve heard before and some non-Christmas songs.”
After performing earlier this year in “Buddy — The Buddy Holly Story” at the Walnut, Nix auditioned for “Plaid Tidings” in September and got the part. Fittingly, the cozy venue is providing the warm holiday feel the group — which is composed of Frankie, Sparky, Smudge and Jinx, the latter played by Nix — is going for.
“It’s been great. The audience is really loving it,” he said. “The studio space at the Walnut is really intimate, so no one is further than two or three rows from us. It’s a fun show, really fun to do for sure. We don’t often get a chance to sing four-part harmonies in contemporary musical theater.”
As he goes about his daily errands, Nix said he is bombarded with carols on every public speaker he passes. However, he has found this to confirm the novelty they are providing in “Plaid Tidings.”
“Being in the show, I’ll be in the supermarket or any restaurant, and there are Christmas carols I keep hearing over and over,” Nix said. “Most of the time, most of what I hear, the version in the show is better. It just sounds better.”
Growing up in Tucson, Ariz., Nix began signing and performing at an early age. His debut, ironically, came around the holidays.
“The first show I ever was in was a Christmas show in preschool, [“The Elves and the Shoemaker”],” he said. “I played the shoemaker.”
Nix was drawn to the bright lights and glamour of performing, but he also was interested in the family feel that theater provided.
“I like the community aspect of it, being a part of a cast you are able to make social connections, and it’s easy to forge friendships,” he said. “It is fun to be on stage in front of people and entertaining people.
“I was a huge comedy fan, like classic comedy like the Marx Brothers. I would watch it voraciously and read and stuff. That was the closest thing I could do to any of that, being in a play or musical.”
Though Nix claims he wasn’t aware in high school he had any aptitude for singing, he would enroll at the University of Arizona and then transfer to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, on the recommendation of a friend who suggested he check out the relatively small arts school.
“Arizona was my hometown school. I was ready to explore something different. The city aspect [of University of the Arts] appealed to me. Being in the middle of a city like Philadelphia is a pretty unique college experience, I think,” Nix, who graduated in 2010 with his bachelor’s of fine arts in musical theater, said. “And it was an arts school, as opposed to the huge liberal arts college of about 40,000, which was pretty different.”
The move suited Nix, who also benefitted greatly from his first voice lessons, which, he said, is the reason he can sing the range he is capable of today. Upon graduation, he and a few fellow actors found an apartment in South Philly.
“I think we’re in the perfect spot that you can be in with the amount of restaurants around the block … so many great places and so many great people,” he said. “A lot of the theater community is based down here, too.”
Nix rather seamlessly transitioned into the working world. However, he toys with the idea of trying on different cities for size in the future.
“I’d like to travel,” he said. “Living in another city is a great way to grow, as well.” Currently, however, he has other projects in the mix along with his performing commitments, keeping him rooted.
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