Sunday, October 16, 2016

Review of "Holiday Inn"

When’s the last time you left a Broadway musical smiling from ear-to-ear and humming songs from a tuneful score?  If you can’t remember when, then head over to Studio 54 for the old-fashioned, thoroughly enjoyable production of Holiday Inn.  Based on the movie of the same name, the show has endearing characters, memorable songs from the Irving Berlin songbook, and enough high-stepping dance numbers to satisfy even the most cantankerous audience member.

The book by Gordon Greenburg and Chad Hodge spruces up and modernizes the movie screenplay without disrupting the essence of the story.   It tightens up slow spots to create a smooth, streamlined version of the original.  It still revolves around three nightclub performers seeking fame and fortune.  Jim Hardy (Bryce Pinkham) wants to leave the act and move to the countryside of Connecticut.  His new fiancée, Lila Dixon (Megan Sikora), another member of the trio, would prefer to stay on the road with the final member of the troupe, Ted Hanover (Cordon Bleu).  They go their separate ways—Lila and Ted hitting the big time while Jim settles into the quieter life of farming.  Along the way he falls for the local schoolteacher, Linda Mason (Lora Lee Gayer), who’s family happened to own the manor and land he now owns.  Also helping out is the wisecracking, live-in handy-woman, Louise (Megan Lawrence).  Unfortunately, for Jim, the farm is pretty much a bust.  But, by happenstance, he comes up with the idea of staging show biz extravaganzas during every holiday (Christmas, Valentine’s Day. 4th of July, etc.) as a way to pay the bills.  The plan works, Jim and Linda are falling in love, and everything seems right.  Until…Ted shows up unexpectantly, causing havoc at the Inn and Jim’s love life.  Turmoil ensues but, readers do not despair, a happy ending does come to pass.

Bryce Pinkham, Megan Lawrence and members of the cast.
The score is comprised of songs from the Broadway shows and movie soundtracks of legendary composer Irving Berlin. They include “Heat Wave” and “Easter Parade” from the Broadway revue As Thousands Cheer; “It’s a Lovely Day Today” from the Broadway musical Call Me Madam and “Let’s Take an Old-Fashioned Walk” from Broadway’s Miss Liberty. There is also “Cheek to Cheek” from the film Top Hat; and “Steppin’ Out With My Baby” from the movie Easter Parade.  For good measure there’s also “Blue Skies” and “White Christmas.”  They are all seamlessly integrated into the plot and provide over two hours of toe-tapping bliss.

Cordin Bleu, Lora Lee Gayer and Bryce Pinkham.
The cast is led by Bryce Pinkham, former entertainer and gentleman farmer Jim Hardy.  The actor, welcoming and winsome, fits easily into both roles—song and dance man and would-be man of the earth.  His love interest, Linda Mason, played by Lora Lee Gayer comes across as down home and American as apple pie but, she too, is no slouch when it’s time to sing or put on the dancing shoes.  She and Pinkham have a real aw shucks chemistry together.  Corbin Bleu is Jim Hardy’s former partner Ted Hanover, a suave, high-spirited rogue.  While radiating a bubbly personality the actor’s performance is more unabashedly effervescent and less nuanced.  However, the former High School Musical star is a very impressive dancer, especially in his second act “Let’s Say It With Firecrackers” solo.  Megan Sikora is daft and determined as Lila Dixon, while Megan Lawrence just about steals the show as the lovable, sharp-tongued Louise.

Corbin Bleu and members of the chorus.
Choreographer Denis Jones has pulled out all the stops for the production.  This is exemplified by the two ebullient and dazzling Farmhouse numbers sung to “Blue Skies” and “Shaking the Blues Away.”  These dance routines are energetic, playful, and full of tap dancing razz-ma-tazz.  With scenes set in nightclubs and during the Holiday Inn festivities Jones makes the most of showcasing his choreographic talents.

Doubling as director, Gordon Greenburg, who has been at the helm of the show since its Fall 2014 debut at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT, has the musical humming on all the right cylinders.  This is a highly polished show, from the frenetic high jinks to the production’s tender moments.  He skillfully meshes the musical numbers with the dialogue driven scenes.  All facets of the show come together perfectly. 

Acknowledgement also needs to be given to Anna Louizos for the wonderfully rendered sets and Alejo Vietti for the multitudinous and sometimes whimsical costumes.

Holiday Inn, an irresistible, crowd-pleasing musical.

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