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Marriott Theatre's 'Holiday Inn' a singing and dancing spectacular

Now playing at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, the regional premier of “Holiday Inn” is a sheer delight.

The story and music are derived from the 1942 movie featuring the composing talents of Irving Berlin. The film starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.

The story is fairly simple: A Broadway composer, Jim Hardy, leaves the bright lights of show business behind to start a simple life as a Connecticut farmer. He soon learns that he is a far better composer than farmer. To keep the bank from foreclosure, Jim hatches an idea to turn his farmhouse into a showplace inn with performances to celebrate every holiday.

The musical features Berlin classics such as “Stepping Out with My Baby,” “Heat Waves,” “Blue Skies” and “White Christmas.”

In the role of Jim Hardy, Michael Mahler is an unlikely leading man, but his gentle voice, acting panache and everyman charm prove a delightful surprise.

As Jim’s onetime co-star and dancing savant Ted Hanover, Will Burton provides stunning dance routines that easily rival Astaire’s performance in the film. His tap dancing is amazing.

Johanna Mckenzie Miller makes for a divine love interest for Mahler’s Hardy. Miller shows off skills in both dance and song to match her top-notch acting.

As strong as the lead performers are – and they all are great – it is Marya Grandy who steals the show as a Connecticut jack-of-all-trades Louise, who Jim inherits when he buys the inn. Her comedic timing is par none, and she has a dynamic belt that sends chills down your spine. It is a performance not to be missed.

Other strong supporting characters include Lorenzo Rush Jr. as a vociferous booking agent, youngster Patrick Scott McDermott as Charlie Winslow – an Alex P. Keaton in the making – and Kimberly Immanuel as Ted’s dance partner, Lila Dixon.

The ensemble includes Aaron Burr, Joe Capstick, Annie Jo Ermel, Alejandro 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. All are incredible singers and dancers.

The production is directed and choreographed by Denis Jones, who earned a Tony Award nomination for choreographing “Holiday Inn” on Broadway (and understandably so – his dance routines are breathtaking). The music by director Ryan T. Nelson borders on perfection.

A critique of the Marriott’s “Holiday Inn” would not be complete without mention of costume design by Sally Dolembo. She provides one of the most stunning displays of costuming to hit the Chicago area in recent memory. A Jeff Award for costume design could be in her future.

To facilitate its theater-in-the-round stagings, the Marriott incorporates projections on all walls surrounding the audience. Beautiful projections and media design by Anthony Churchill truly aid the story.