I don't like theater much. I think I can trace it back to the number of times my grandmother treated me to a performance of "Cats."
That wasn't "Cats" among other shows. Just "Cats." Year after year, "Cats." So, when I walked into Theatre Horizon in Norristown to preview their holiday show, I had low expectations.
Does theater exist without felines?
It does, and it's good. Laugh out loud good.
The set of "Holiday Show with the Swing Club Band" takes you back to New Year's Eve at a fictional jazz club celebrating music from the 1940s that inspires optimism in American culture.
An usher by the name of Alistair V. Hackney (played by Michael Doherty) anxiously helps ticket holders to their seats. His quirky, comical solicitousness sets the stage before the show begins.
The remaining five cast members seal the deal. Mike Reilly plays Mikey Sticks, the slick drummer and sidekick to Jimmy Goodshaw, the club's charming host played by Ted Powell.
The duo's antics unfold as they roll out the night's featured singers backed by an in-house jazz band. The voices are big, the costumes are glamorous and the jokes are authentic.
It's New Year's Eve 1949, and anything can happen.
"One of the most satisfying things for us is when people bring their grandparents," said Erin Reilly, artistic director at Horizons. "My mom brought her dad, who was 85, and he sung along to the entire show last year. This is a chance for them to hear their music, and it's a great way to start a conversation about what it was like back then."
If you really want grandma to feel like she's back in her hey day, have Hackney direct you to a seat at one of the cocktail tables dotting the set. She'll feel like she's part of the show.
There are plenty of reasons to visit Norristown these days, and "Holiday Show" is one of the best. It runs through Jan. 3, but with just 75 tickets sold per show, these aren't going to last.
Pack up the kids, pick up the grandparents and head to Norristown. In the next few years, you may find yourself saying that more than you ever imagined.
- Darla Synnestvedt