Holiday Inn: The Musical, Just the Kinda Get Away We All Need Right Now
Do you need a getaway from the presidential debates and election drama? Some time off from CNN and MSNBC? It sounds like the characters of that wonderful play over at the Public Theatre, What Do You Expect? need the same break as many of us do. Well, I know the perfect place. It’s over at Studio 54 for the Roundabout’s lovely new classic old-school musical, Holiday Inn. A visit to this Inn will take you back to the Golden Age of Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby where everything is solved by a beautiful song and a great tap dance number. What could be better then that as we painfully inch our way to Election Day here in the U.S. of A.
Times were so peaceful then. We all know that’s not so true in the historic sense, but in terms of movie musical magic, every day is perfect for a song and a dance filled with love and goodness. Now granted a few things go awry for these folks, but we know in the end, the sweet girl who stayed home in the small town, gave up her dream of singing and dancing to care for her father and become a loved school teacher, will find true love. And who could ask for a better host then these fun festive and thoroughly talented leads. We only have to sit back and relax. Open our hearts to the beautiful Irving Berlin songs and take in with all the love we have of choreographer, Denis Jones’s spectacular dance numbers.
Bryce Pinkham (Tony nominated for Gentlman’s Guide to Love and Murder) plays the Bing Crosby part, Jim Hardy. Definitely the crooner and star of this show, Jim wants to change and simplify his hectic show biz life by moving to a farm and getting away from it all. The gorgeous Marilyn Monroe look-a-like, Megan Sikora (Encore’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) is the object of his love and affection at first, but we all know that she, Lila Dixon loves singing and dancing with Jim and his dance partner, Ted Hanover (the very talented Corbin Bleu of the High School Musical fame playing the Fred Astaire part) far too much to ever settle down in rural Connecticut. And the moment the lovely Lara Lee Gayer (Doctor Zhivago) walks on the stage as Linda Mason, the school teacher daughter of the former owner of the farm Jim has just purchased, we also all know that besides the fact she can sing and dance as well as any of them, she is also the woman who will take Jim’s heart completely. I’m including Megan Lawrence (The Pajama Game) in with these four because her portrayal of feisty caretaker Louise is just the kind of wonderful that kicks this show from charming to ‘funtastic’. This role played no part in the 1942 movie musical, as did many a number and clunky plot device from that classic film (one of the highest-grossing film musical that year), but here she is pure magic.
Reading the convoluted plot of the film makes us just love Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge’s new book that transformed this Oscar winning Mark Sandrich film into a more fully satisfying stage musical, that also happens to be directed beautifully by the same Greenberg. Back in Connecticut, Jim and Louise, struggling to make the farm bring in enough money to survive, come up with a plan to save the farm from bankruptcy. With the help of Linda and a gang of very helpful (and super talented) Broadway singers and dancers, who just happen to be visiting by the bus load at Christmas time, they decide to turn the rustic farmhouse into the Holiday Inn, an entertainment destination that would put on holiday themed musical shows to celebrate each and every holiday in the year. Such a lovely idea (and sounds an awful lot like the soon-to-follow 1954 musical film, White Christmas, doesn’t it?) and such a festive set up for many musical moments to be paraded out for our enjoyment. They give us the gorgeous “White Christmas”, “Be Careful, It’s My Heart”, “Holiday Inn/Happy Holiday”, “Song of Freedom”, and the reused 1933 song, “Easter Parade” (that had been introduced in a Broadway musical revue called As Thousands Cheer). (Sidenote: When the movie came out in the 40’s, it was assumed that “Be Careful..” would be the song hit of the movie, but, not surprising to us now, “White Christmas” was the song that struck the strongest chord. That classic topped the charts in October of that year, and stayed there for eleven weeks.) Greenberg and Hodge kept the joy and the fun, and got rid of the awkward moments in the film, especially that controversial blackface number “Abraham” musical number, which was staged at the Inn for Lincoln’s birthday.
There is no place in this show for anything like that. Holiday Inn is a place where we can get away from all of that kind of talk. And return to a place that is warm and optimistic, even if it is a fantasy land filled with lovely music and great tap dance numbers. We know we have to eventually emerge from Studio 54 into the pre election madness that occupied those fantastic souls over at the home of the (3 play cycle) Gabriel Family at the Public Theatre. But until then, when election day finally arrives, and when Election Year In the Life of One Family Part 3, Women of a Certain Age opens on Nov 4th, let’s just rejoice that the Roundabout gave us this little holiday, wrapped in a big red ribbon of joy and love.