‘Mount Airy Home Companion’ to offer up talking fruitcake, retiring Santa and the Pope at holiday show

 Back row, left to right: Jim Harris, Robyn Miller, Jake Michael, Molly Mahoney, Martha Michael; Front row: Andy Pettit, Greg Williams, Richard Redding, Lynda Chen. (Courtesy of Gary Reed)

Back row, left to right: Jim Harris, Robyn Miller, Jake Michael, Molly Mahoney, Martha Michael; Front row: Andy Pettit, Greg Williams, Richard Redding, Lynda Chen. (Courtesy of Gary Reed)

Santa is retiring with a bit of a mid-life crisis. To express his inner self, he turns to painting. If something about that sounds a tad familiar, you may already know the Mount Airy Players’ satirical style. Their fourth “Mount Airy Home Companion” show lands at Allens Lane Art Center this weekend.

Earlier this week, NewsWorks chatted with co-creator, writer and musician Jim Harris about what Northwest audiences can expect for this year’s holiday show.

Launched with a single performance in March 2012, the “Mount Airy Home Companion” concept was inspired by Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion and created by Saint Mad, a Mt. Airy-based band made up of Harris, Martha Michael, Molly Mahoney and Lynda Chen. The Mount Airy Players, including comedy actors Andy Pettit, Elizabeth Caruso and Robyn Miller, will join them onstage.

Singer/songwriter Jake Michael will bring some familiar songs with a local twist, and third-generation klezmer clarinetist David Kutzik of Mt. Airy will add some Hanukkah flair, even though the holiday came a tad early this year.

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What to expect

The latest show will also see the return of dancer/choreographer Audrey Bookspan and Walk a Crooked Mile bookstore owner Greg Williams. This year the Northwest literary tycoon will be playing Santa Claus, which, according to Harris, “isn’t too big a stretch.”

Naturally, St. Nick’s impending retirement after about 500 years of winter legend calls for a reality-show style competition called “America’s Next Santa.”

Pope Francis himself is also scheduled to drop by. “He was in the neighborhood handing out pamphlets so he stopped in to see us,” Harris said. He’ll be interviewing the Pope onstage for some “simple-living techniques” that everyone can use.

Fortunately, the Pope will also bring his ukulele to play some Argentinian tango — with Latin lyrics, naturally.

“Of course we still make fun of — not make fun of, pay tribute to — shows from WHYY,” Harris added carefully.

Two more interviews will feature Frosty the Snowman and Mrs. Claus. “Of course they’ve both written books,” including a family-friendly North Pole twist on “Fifty Shades of Gray.”

Plus there’s a walking, talking fruitcake. “He’s feeling bad because no one likes fruitcake, so we give him his moment in the sun,” Harris explained.

‘A crazy idea’

Last year, the show’s Saint Mad creators didn’t know the event would grow as popular as it has.

“It was just a crazy idea and a couple people said, yeah, you should do that,” Harris remembered of their initial easy-going approach. “And all these people came and we said, wow, we better do this better next time.”

After three successful Mount Airy Home Companion productions, “the show gets a little tighter each time we do it,” Harris finished. “It’s just great being a community event.”

The second annual Mount Airy Home Companion Holiday Show is coming to the Allens Lane Art Center on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 15th at 4 p.m. $15 tickets can be purchased in advance online; $20 tickets will be available at the door (cash or check only).

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