A police officer, school teacher, former pro wrestler and owner of a school of piping. No, not the next Village People line-up, but a hilarious and raucous group of highly talented musicians who deliver a show filled with not only music, but dance and comedy as well.
The Tartan Terrors, who will play the Mauch Chunk Opera House come Sunday, are the nations premiere Celtic act, a brigade of kilted performers headed by brother-sister duo Ellen and Ian Wilkes Irmisch.
Ellen filled us in on just what the Terrors are about, and how special this show is to them.
TIMES LEADER: This does not look like your typical show.
ELLEN WILKES IRMISCH: Fun is key and we want people to come out and enjoy the night. It's basically Celtic comedy, music, and dance all rolled into one. And the Opera House is just phenomenal. Coming to Jim Thorpe is like coming home. The history behind the theater is amazing and we love to be there and party with everyone. That's really what happens; it becomes a big party room. It's not just about coming to see a show, it's really becoming a big event. I always say to kids, ‘Be rowdy, you can be loud!' They're dancing in front of the stage, it's all fun stuff, and I love that.
TL: This is quite a large group – is it a rotating cast?
EWI: It is, it all depends on where people are at. We have a couple that are in school, one is a full-time police officer. We're lucky, though. We're heading into our 17th year and, like any major theater company, we have a pool of people that are all awesome and respect it.
TL: How do you find your members?
EWI: In the industry that we're in, a lot of times you're crossing paths with people or somebody knows somebody. You make a lot of connections. We've been very blessed and lucky to have the team we have. They're all just so fun and crazy and talented.
TL: You and your brother Ian head the band together. What's it like working with a sibling?
EWI: We grew up with a family business, so it was more like a natural step. My mom started a dance studio in 1961. It was like a running a farm, learning how to work together. I feel very blessed. I have an incredible brother – and yes, he's my little brother – and it's such a gift to get to walk on stage with him. He's an amazing entertainer and blows my mind every time. Actually, one of my favorite stories of him has to do with a show in Pittsburgh, right after the Green Bay Packers beat the Steelers. Ian is a huge Packers fan, and the bet was that he had to walk on stage wearing a cheese head for a bottle of scotch. I'll tell you, I never heard such a wall of ‘boos' in my life. But then he was like, ‘Well I did this for a bottle of scotch,' and the audience was like ‘Oh, well that's ok then.'
TL: The Tartan Terrors get involved with charities. What organizations do you give to?
EWI: We do a lot of different charity events, but our primary one is breast cancer. One of our band mates lost his mom to breast cancer and all of us have been touched by cancer on different avenues. My mom had pancreatic, dad had leukemia, my stepfather had colon cancer, so we just wanted to give back. I actually do a dance to a song called When Pink is Just a Color Again, written by Kal Hourd. For the dance I researched with four women who had breast cancer, one being from Pennsylvania actually, and their stories are all in the dance. It's become very important to me, especially in the stories that have come out while doing it. The thing I love about it, and what I try to show people when they come to see the performance, is that all four women I talked to were like, Yea, ok, I had breast cancer, so bring it on, I can handle anything now. They all just had this strength in them that was like Watch me go, look at what I've conquered, look where I'm at now.
What: Tartan Terrors
When: Doors 7 p.m., show at 8 Sunday
Where: Mauch Chunk Opera House, 14 W. Broadway, Jim Thorpe