SWOYERSVILLE — “Meet me in St. Louis, Louis,” the two dozen people on stage sing. “Meet me at the fair.”
By the time they reach the lines about dancing the “hootchy-kootchy” and being each other’s “tootsie-wootsie,” you may feel as if you are on your way to the 1904 World’s Fair.
A moment later, the singers seamlessly segue into a very different tune and detour you to New York’s East Village. “We’re not gonna pay! Last year’s rent! This year’s rent! Next year’s rent!”
In rapid succession during a recent rehearsal at Music Box Playhouse the group offered at least a line or two from “Camelot,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” “Evita,” and “Brigadoon.”
“Sell it, Girls!” director Debbie Zehner encouraged the female members of the ensemble as they stepped forward to practice a high-stepping chorus line from “Nunsense.”
How many musicals will they represent?
“We touch on 35 songs in 35 minutes,” said Zehner, who is directing “Memories and Dreams” from July 15 to 24 at Music Box Playhouse. The show is a revue-style celebration of the 35th anniversary of the theater’s founding in a renovated factory on Hughes Street.
The 35-minute medley is just one segment; the show will include other numbers that have been sung at past shows, from “Oklahoma” to “The King and I” to “Cabaret” to “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
Also on the agenda are songs that may be performed in future shows such as “Finding Neverland,” “Matilda,” “Little Women” and “Phantom of the Opera.”
“The funniest song is ‘Vicked, Vicked Vitchen,’ ” said costumer Mary Dower, of Dallas, referring to a number from “The Marvelous Misadventures of Little Red Riding Hood,” written about 25 years ago by long-time Music Box Player Kevin Costley, of Plymouth.
Theatre manager Michael Gallagher and Zehner will reprise that number which, without accents, would sound more like “Wicked, Wicked Witch.”
With 35 years of shows, Cynthia Brandreth, of Kingston said, it’s easy to look back and realize you must have been in at least 100. “I used to be in six or seven a year,” she said, recalling she appeared as Ado Annie in the theatre’s first production in 1981, “Oklahoma.”
This year, her 10-year-old daughter, Rebecca, will appear with her and 22 other cast members in the revue.
“When you hear a song you know, you just want to sing along,” Rebecca said during a rehearsal break, explaining some of the fun of taking part.
There are challenges to the theatrical life, too, such as when you’re called to play a role outside of your comfort zone.
“Like Mrs. Lovett in ‘Sweeney Todd,’ ” Nancy Brown of Harding said, recalling her turn as the baker of meat pies, which didn’t feel quite as natural as the time she played “the role I had to have” — Maria in “The Sound of Music.”
“I’m usually not cast as someone so masculine and domineering,” Costley said, counting his title role in “The King and I” as more of a stretch than his appearances as “Scrooge” in “A Christmas Carol.”
“He’s become integral to my life,” said the actor, who has more than once portrayed the miser whose timely change of heart saves Tiny Tim. “I feel so much that he’s me.”
Many veteran cast members have made Music Box a part of their lives, perhaps for one year, perhaps for 35.
“Teamwork” is the place’s best asset, said Dower, adding she “feels really blessed” to be part of the team.
“It really brings people of all generations together,” said Kalen Churcher of Plymouth.
“This is where I shine,” Cynthia Brandeth said.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT
IF YOU GO
What: ‘Memories and Dreams,’ 35th anniversary revue
Where: Music Box Dinner Playhouse, 196 Hughes St., Swoyersville
When: July 15 to 24 with performances 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays
Tickets: $18 show only, $35 with dinner