Holiday edition of 'Mt. Airy Home Companion' show coming to Allens Lane Art Center [Video]
Sometimes, keeping things close to home is much scarier than taking your talents farther afield.
That's what local humor writer Jim Harris, a Mt. Airy native, found out when he and the members of his band, Saint Mad, decided to write, produce and perform a comedy show last spring that skewered the Northwest neighborhood.
"Mt. Airy Home Companion," modeled on old-fashioned radio variety shows, poked fun at local institutions like WHYY's "Fresh Air" (and its callers) and the Weavers Way Co-op.
But would the audience enjoy jokes about themselves?
"That was something we were worried about – what if they don't laugh at this?" said Harris.
They shouldn't have been nervous. The sold-out crowd loved it.
"Afterward, there was a Q&A," recalled Harris, "and the first thing somebody asked was, 'when are you going to do this again?'
In response, Harris and his co-writer, Saint Mad trumpet-player Martha Michael, along with a host of local helpers, will present Mt. Airy Home Companion: the Holiday Show.
A pair of performances will be held this weekend at the Allens Lane Art Center. The first will be on Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. The other will be Dec. 9 at 4 p.m.
Harris said he's not so nervous about show's debut, but he does feel that the stakes are a lot higher, given the success of the inaugural performance.
"I worked a lot harder on the show, because last time, it was, 'well, we're just going to do this and either it'll go well or it'll flop'." Now that the neighborhood is looking forward to more, "we've got to make this good."
That meant a lot more time and effort in developing the show this time around.
Fair warning: this year, the comedy takes aim at WHYY's Marty Moss-Coane and her Radio Times' callers.
Harris and Michael have also penned a special Mt. Airy-style "Christmas Carol," bringing the Dickens fable to the Northwest. Returning Mt. Airy Home Companion performers include the Saint Mad players and actors Andrew Criss, Loretta Lucy Miller, Andy Pettit and "the Most Totally Righteous" Greg Williams of Walk a Crooked Mile Books, who made his singing debut with the show last spring. He'll now appear as St. Nicholas.
Joining the comedy and music will be a dance routine choreographed by Saint Mad percussionist Audrey Bookspan, and the season's littlest choir.
Five seven-year-olds from Germantown Friends School will also be onstage, singing songs like "Winter Wonderland" with new lyrics to spoof the neighbors. In a skit of great promise, Harris hopes the kids will join Williams for a never-before-seen rendition of Madonna's "Material Girl."
"They're very energetic," said Harris
To honor one of the show's sponsors, Harris will also be premiering an original song inspired by Weavers Way.
"We wrote a special song for them, just about pickles. That's what they wanted," Harris explained. Ticket-buyers will even have a shot at taking home their own free jar of the vinegary treats.
Tickets ($15 in advance online, $20 at the door) are already going fast for both performances, and if the Holiday Show is as popular as last spring's production, Harris hopes to make "Mt. Airy Home Companion" a twice-annual tradition.
He predicts another sold-out crowd: "We've got it all: singing, dancing, and comedy."