In 1939 Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland were in a film, “Babes In Arms” , where the famous line was said “”Let’s put on a show”. Ane for years and years, stories have been written following this theme! In the year of my birth, 1942, another film was made following that theme. The film was Holiday Inn ( not to be confused with the hotel chain) and was the story of an entertainer who “bought a farm ( not bought THE farm) in Connecticut to start enjoying retirement. It did not work out, so his friends helped him convert the farm to an Inn that put on holiday shows ( thus, the title). The book by Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge might be called “hokey” and “corny”, but the music is from the Irving Berlin “songbook”, so this show is very entertaining..
Directed and superbly choreographed by Denis James, this show is filled with great music: “Blue Skies”, “Heat Wave”, , “Marching Along With Time”, “Let’s Take An Old Fashioned Walk”, “Cheek To Cheek”, and of course “White Christmas”. This is just a sampling of the powerful score. There is a number in the second act, “Let’s Say It With Firecrackers”/ Song of Freedom” that will knock your sox off! It is a show-stopper . Speaking of show stoppers, there are two characters in this story that will warm your heart, make you laugh and have you applauding after every scene they do. The first one is a little boy, Charlie Winslow ( Patrick Scott McDermott is adorable), who delivers messages from his scooter that are hysterical. The other is Louise ( a Jeff Award nomination should come from this on by the incredible Marya Grandy-wow!) who sort of comes with the farm.
Our hero in this story is Jim Hardy ( the always perfect Michael Mahler) a singer who has been working as part of an act with his fiancée, Lila Dixon ( Kimberly Immanuel) and tap dancer extraordinaire, Ted Hanover (Will Burton is quite the dancer). He is tired of the rat race and buys a farm in Connecticut so that he and Lila can settle down and have a family life. She wants fame and Hollywood, so when an offer comes from their agent Danny ( played to perfection by Lorenzo Rush, Jr.) , Ted and Lila make it a duo and Jim heads off to the farm.
The previous owner of the farm, Linda Mason ( deftly handled by Johanna McKenzie Miller), a local teacher, at one time wanted to be a performer, but gave it up. A bit contrived, but after all, it was 1942, we were in a war, and people were seeking happy in their films. The story has some ups and down and gets even more contrived ( or perhaps “hokier”) when Hollywood wants to do a story about this story and uses Ted to play Jim and Lila to play Linda. Oh, well. What matters is that this is an uplifting evening of wonderful music performed by an energetic and very talented cast of players. The chemistry between Mahler and McKenzie is terrific. I have always said that the ensemble is of great import in a musical production of this magnitude and “Holiday Inn” proves it! A tip of the top hat to:Aaron Burr, Joe Capstick ( who does some juggling as well),Annie Jo Emel, Aljandro Fonseca, Adam LaSalle, Jarran Muse, Tony Neidenbach, Madison Piner, Liam Quealy, Collin Sanderson, Laura Savage, Amanda Tanguay, Elizabeth Telford, Bethany Tesarck, Diana Vaden and Jessica Wolfrum. They are amazing dancers ( there are tap numbers that will astound you- including a rope jumping show-stopper).
Being an in-the-round theater, sets are limited but Scott Davis brings us the feeling of the stage and the barn with great ease ( no time is wasted in going from scene to scene). The lighting (Jesse Klug), sound (Robert E. Gilmartin) and props (Eleanor Kahn) are up to the normal perfection of this theater and the costumes (Sally Dolembo) are unique and eye- catching. The Easter Bonnets (“Easter Parade” are a delight!. The music, as always is led by Patty Garwood (at the keyboard) under the musical direction of Ryan T. Nelson. The associate choreographers ( there are lots of great dance numbers in this one) are Barry Busby and William Carlos Angulo. Great work. The added tech person of late is the projection designer (Anthony Churchill) who brings us a mix of slides and videos allowing us to feel that we are “down on the farm”.This show is not a typical “Christams-time ” production, but in reality, a celebration of Irving Berlin and what he brought to our musical history! Enjoy!