Review: ‘Holiday Inn’ at Studio 54
The New Irving Berlin Musical, Not the Hotel
One could easily be forgiven for assuming “Holiday Inn,” which opened at Studio 54 last Thursday, was a revival of a Broadway musical of yore. Surprisingly, the 1942 Bing Crosby film, which bestowed upon the world the Irving Berlin song “White Christmas,” remained a movie musical until writers Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge brought it to the stage at the Goodspeed Opera House two years ago in East Haddam, Connecticut, presumably not far from the mythical town of Midville, where the majority of the action takes place.
While a successful transition from screen to the Broadway stage is never guaranteed, it can be done quite well, as “An American in Paris” demonstrated. By taking Berlin’s original concept, keeping (of course) “White Christmas” and “Happy Holiday,” deftly adding some other of his classics such as “Easter Parade” and “Blue Skies,” and mercifully omitting the film’s minstrel number in blackface, “Holiday Inn” truly lights up the stage.
Set in 1946, this is a story about Jim, with Bryce Pinkham (Bing Crosby in the film), who, tired of life on the road as an nightclub performer, proposes marriage to his dance partner Lila (Megan Sikora), gives up his singing career, and along with the third partner in the act, Ted (Corbin Bleu), moves to a farmhouse in the country. (At this point, I half expected Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor to pop up on stage singing the line “Farm living is the life for me“ from the “Green Acres” theme song.)
To stave off foreclosure – apparently nothing has grown in the ground in Midville for decades– Jim takes advantage of the farmhouse’s 15 bedrooms and turns it into a hotel and nightclub that is only open on holidays, hence the show’s title and new name of the farmhouse, “Holiday Inn.” (It’s important to note that today’s Holiday Inn chain, currently owned by InterContinental Hotels Group, was named after the movie by the hotel’s architect.)
Both the storyline and characters in the musical are far more robust here than in the movie. There’s a new central character, Louise (Megan Lawrence), the farm’s wisecracking caretaker (think Mary Grace Canfield’s Ralph the carpenter character in “Green Acres”) whom Jim inherits along with the house. Another new character is a wise-beyond-his-years schoolboy, Charlie, played by Morgan Gao, whose impeccable comic timing when arriving via scooter to serve Jim with late-payment notices from the bank, makes it clear that Jim’s days on the farm are numbered. (In the performance we saw, Louise’s role was played by Megan Lawrence’s understudy, Jennifer Foote.)
Linda Mason, the movie’s other woman, has been upgraded to the former owner of the farm who lost it to the bank and is now a “star in the making,” to quote Ted.
The combination of dazzling dancing, sublime singing, an orchestra (led by Andy Einhorn) that makes one feel like an audience member at the show at the Holiday Inn in Midville, along with Anna Louizos’ extraordinarily detailed sets and Alejo Vietti’s bright and period authentic costumes make for a dazzling visit to the theater.
Since this is a limited engagement through January 15, you’ll want to make a reservation at this Holiday Inn right now.
(Photos: Accura Media Group)