Walter Kerr, who became a theater critic in the 1950’s, once wrote that “the essential purpose of a musical-comic book was to be interrupted.” That is certainly the case with Holiday Inn, a 2014 musical set in 1946 and ‘47, and based on the classic 1942 film starring Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby. There is a storyline to follow, but it is clear from the start that it exists only to serve as a launching pad for the beautiful songs of Irving Berlin, and to pause when a big dance number is ready to stop the show.
The happy-go-lucky characters, attractive and talented one and all, inhabit a world where travel from Connecticut to LA happens in the wink of an eye, the calendar consists only of holidays, threats of financial ruin come from a cute kid on a scooter, and World War II apparently never occurred. This is escapist fare at full tilt, at a time when the real world is decidedly off its axis. Perhaps, in 2017, we will return to something resembling normalcy. Until then, a short stay at Holiday Inn provides a welcomed getaway.
Jim (Bryce Pinkham) and Ted (Corbin Bleu) are song and dance men and competitive pals. Ted is also whatever you would call the opposite of a wing man, with a habit of stealing away Jim’s women. In an important if barely believable plot twist, Jim decides to give up touring, buy a huge farm at a cheap price in Connecticut and send his gal Lila (Megan Sikora) off on the road with Ted. Once ensconced in his new life, Jim’s bubble begins to burst as he finds that his new home is a money pit. Fortunately, his only agitator is Charlie (Morgan Gao), a licorice-chewing messenger boy from the bank. With the help of a comedic device, um, I mean a repair woman, named Louise (Megan Lawrence), and a replacement love interest, um, I mean former owner of the farm, named Linda (Lora Lee Gayer), and a swell group of chorus folk, Jim converts his property into the ultimate off-off-off Broadway performance space. With show times scheduled only on holidays, because when else would you ever go to Connecticut, singing and dancing carry the day and true love doth flourish.
But never mind all that. Where else are you going to hear “Blue Skies,” “White Christmas,” “Easter Parade” and “Heat Wave” all in one night? Where else can “Shaking the Blues Away” transform into a fantastic chorus number featuring tap dancers with jump ropes? And where else can a former cast member of High School Musical tap his way through exploding fireworks and down into the front row of the audience as Mr. Bleu does here with the kind of effortlessness that Tony Danza can only dream about? His co-stars are equally entertaining. Mr. Pinkham is in fine voice and is especially touching in his rendition of “Be Careful, It’s my Heart.” (Perhaps not coincidentally, that is also the only number in the show that actually advances the plotline, as Ted takes aim on Linda.) Ms. Sikora brings a sharp comic touch to Lila. The first few scenes have us thinking that this is her show, but she then disappears for most of the evening. And Ms. Gayer, in the role played by Marjorie Reynolds in the film, brings a classy movie star quality to the role with her elegant dancing and lovely voice. Who wouldn’t want to woo her?
Director Gordon Greenberg has the show running like a well-oiled machine. With the curtain up at 8:01 and an exactly 15-minute-long intermission, the seasons fly by, with scenic designer Anna Louizos’ set pieces whizzing past and a New Year’s Eve champagne cork blasting into the balcony. Before we know it, it’s time for a “White Christmas” reprise, and a happy finale. Then the lights come up and we remember we are inside Studio 54, where newlyweds Donald and Ivana Trump once boogied.
"A perky but bland stage adaptation of the 1942 movie."
Charles Isherwood for New York Times
"It’s familiar and vanilla-flavored fluff, but with tasty sprinkles: a fine cast, tap-happy hoofing and colorfully witty costumes."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"There’s more corn and cheese served in this earnest, sweater-vested affair than any nutritionist would approve, but what harm in a cup of early eggnog?"
David Cote for Time Out New York
"This tuneful confection of standards from one of America's greatest songwriters definitely harkens back to the golden age of musicals."
Jennifer Farrar for Associated Press
"The Irving Berlin songs work their magic in this formulaic but sweet-hearted musical."
Frank Scheck for Hollywood Reporter
"Director Gordon Greenberg and co-writer Chad Hodge have significantly rethought, reshaped and revitalized the script, giving the show more heart, a slightly modern sensibility and a joyful spirit. Engaging performances, dynamic dancing and a lively orchestra make it the feel-good show of the fall."
Frank Rizzo for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...