As part of the festivities leading up to the National Dog Show, "The Perfect Dog" by John O’Hurley will be performed Nov. 9, 10, 11 and 15 at the newly renovated Centre Theater in Norristown.
In "The Perfect Dog" Sam, a 12-year old perfectionist, searches for a suitable dog to enter in the Town Dog Contest. Unable to find one that measures up, Sam resorts to training the family dog, Max, who is less than eager to obey commands.
"It speaks to what dogs really are," said the show's executive producer, Norristown resident Matt Durkin. "My mutt just passed. It was his time. He was anything but perfect, but he was perfect to me."
This is the second year that the musical, based on a children's book written in 2013 by O'Hurley, has been produced at the Centre Theater. O'Hurley, a veteran actor most associated with his role as J. Peterman on "Seinfeld," will attend the Nov. 15 performance and will participate in a post-show "talkback" at 9 p.m.
In a phone interview given during an early morning drive, O'Hurley said the Centre Theater is "the perfect space for 'The Perfect Dog.' It's such a wonderfully intimate space."
He said that the idea to transform "The Perfect Dog" into a show was suggested to him during a run he had playing King Arthur in a nationally touring production of the musical "Spamalot." The production company bought the rights from O'Hurley, and he forgot about it until "out of nowhere comes this script and the music. And it was absolutely stunning to me," he said. "The music actually made me tear up a little bit. The dog sings a song 'She Would be Happy If I Wasn't Me'."
The music and lyrics of "The Perfect Dog" are by David Abbinanti and the book is by Jill Abbinanti.
A pet parent of three dogs of his own, O’Hurley has emceed the Philadelphia-based National Dog Show every year since 2001, and has written two other books with canine themes. "Before the Dog Can Eat Your Homework, First You Have to Do It: Life Lessons from a Wise Old Dog to a Young Boy" and "It’s Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump" both came out in 2007. O'Hurley said that "The Perfect Dog" was written as a sequel of sorts for the latter.
O'Hurley — a champion of the inaugural season of "Dancing with the Stars" and a former host of "Family Feud," that will be returning to Broadway in November to reprise his role as Billy Flynn in "Chicago" — is also the recorded voice of short, between-song elements on Philly's 95.7 Ben-FM. There are a few other radio stations across the country that also feature O'Hurley's voice in the same capacity. "They give me a character, if you will. The character has a name, like Ben. It's all improv really. It's an extension of the J. Peterman character," he said, adding that the year after "Seinfeld" was canceled, he invested in the real-life J. Peterman clothing catalog company and is still a co-owner.
He also has a one-man show, "A Man with Standards," that "eventually I'm gonna book ... in the Philly area. It's a 90-minute memoir and uses the music from the Great American Songbook to tell about different parts of my life," O'Hurley said.
"A Man with Standards" has references to "Seinfeld," which has enjoyed a second life in syndication. "It's getting a brand new audience. It's a bit like a Disney movie that re-invents itself every couple years," said O'Hurley, adding that his 12-year-old son, and his son's friends, have recently discovered the sitcom that was based on the stand-up comedy of Jerry Seinfeld.
A portion of proceeds will support To Love a Canine Rescue, which will hold a meet and greet with dogs available for adoption prior to the start of each performance.
The Kennel Club of Philadelphia will present the National Dog Show Nov. 17-18 at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Upper Providence Township. The show is televised on NBC Thanksgiving Day, after the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. According to O'Hurley, 30 million people watch it. For more information about the National Dog Show, visit http://nds.nationaldogshow.com/kcp.php.