It's New Year's Eve, and bandleader Jimmy Goodshaw (Ted Powell) declares that with many of our beloved boys overseas, "1943 has been a tough year for us all." So begins
Holiday Show at the Swing Club
, Theater Horizon's newest production, which keeps the cold outside, baby, and warmth in the room.
Horizon co-artistic directors Matthew Decker and Erin Reilly interviewed residents at Kennett Square's Senior Center to get a feel for the time, and came away with a deep respect for its unflagging optimism. Though the show lacks plot or dialogue beyond the onstage banter between our host Goodshaw and his jumpin', jivin' supporting cast and band, its premise - Goodshaw's final appearance with the gang before he trades in his tux for fatigues and ships off to join those servicemen - offers enough suppressed emotion to suffuse the performances with a sense of purpose.
With Powell's velvet croon, bedroom eyes, and good-natured grin, he leads the troupe like a pro, transporting us from the troubles of the day.
Reilly's consummate chanteuse June Cassidy and Ryane Nicole Studivant's classy Toni Day combine midtown cool with uptown heat, while Rachel Camp's ingenue Grace Taylor can both hoof it and belt it like crazy. Only Franco Vuono's heartthrob-in-training Frankie Dean is unconvincing, with a voice noticeably weaker than his castmates' and a too-contemporary demeanor.
The musical revue includes standards ("Stardust"), novelty favorites ("A Tisket a Tasket") and songbook classics ("Night and Day"), sung with flair by the cast, and backed by a winning five-piece combo featuring wisecracking drummer Mike Reilly. Decker's direction is affectionate and Joe Cicala's choreography brings enough beginner swing to get the point across.
However, Jessica Herwick's costumes, while mostly charming, allow a pair of decidedly modern shoes to slip onto the set, and Dan Soule's set itself is desperately in need of some festive shimmer.
There is also the issue of whether or not the playwrights intended parallels between life during wartime then and now. Though it's certainly tempting to connect the dots, Reilly's final comments - that in the new year Goodshaw might find himself amid troops laying down their weapons in peace and returning home - have an anachronistic tone. Such sentiments might be appreciated now, but post-Pearl Harbor and in the face of Nazi aggression, the crowd hoped not just for peace, but also for victory against an indisputable and well-defined enemy. Ah, the good old days.
Holiday Show at the Swing Club
Written by Matthew Decker, Erin Reilly and the cast, directed by Matthew Decker, musical direction by Sam Heifetz, choreography by Joe Cicala, scenery by Dan Soule, costumes by Jessica Herwick, sound and lighting by Adam Altman.
Ted Powell (Jimmy Goodshaw), Mike Reilly (Mikey Sticks), Erin Reilly (June Cassidy), Ryane Nicole Studivant (Toni Day), Franco Vuono (Frankie Dean), Rachel Camp (Grace Taylor).
Centre Theatre, 208 DeKalb St., Norristown, through Dec. 31. Tickets $18 to $25. Information: 610-283-2230 or
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