Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Theater Review: Holiday Inn -- Goodspeed

The cast of Holiday Inn. Photo: Diane Sobolewski

It’s Old and New and Features Sensational Choreography
By Lauren Yarger
It’s got great tunes by Irving Berlin, old-fashioned dance numbers and a lot of heart. Another revival of a classic musical at Goodspeed you might think -- but you would be wrong. It’s the word premiere of a new musical. Well, a new, old musical, if you will.

Based on the classic film starring Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby, Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn features tunes like “What’ll I Do?,” "Happy Holiday," "Easter Parade," "Be Careful, It's My Heart" and “You’re Easy to Dance With” with a new book by Gordon Greenberg (who directs) and Chad Hodge.

The plot is the same: Entertainers Ted Hanover (Noah Racey), Jim Hardy (Tally Sessions) and Lila Dixon (Hayley Podschun) have been performing their song and dance number waiting for their big break, but Jim has had a change of heart. He wants to get out of show business and settle down on a farm in Connecticut.

He buys the old Mason Farm in Midville, CT at foreclosure and pops the question to Lila. She opts to join Ted on the road for a while, however, and Jim finds himself trying to figure out how to raise chickens and fix his repair-needy old farm house. Offering some help are fix-it expert Louise (Susan Mosher) and the farm’s former owner, Linda Mason (Patti Murin), a school teacher who once dreamsed of a career in show biz.

The three stumble upon a way to make money to keep the farm: invite Jim’s show biz friends, who don’t have anywhere to go on the holidays, up to Connecticut to put on some shows. The inn turns into a holiday showplace and a romance between Linda and Jim blossoms, until Ted pays a visit and decides Linda is the perfect dance partner. Will Jim lose another girl to his best friend?

Don’t stress too hard. The light plot serves mostly as a vehicle for the delightful songs (Music Direction by Michael O’Flaherty; Orchestrations by Dan DeLange), splashy, glittery mid 1940s costumes designed by Alejo Vietti (with excellent Wig and Hair Design by Mark Adam Rampmeyer) and the clever and exciting choreography by Denis Jones (watch for his work in the soon-to-hit-Broadway musical Honeymoon in Vegas). Anna Louizos designs simple sets that don’t detract from the other elements and leave plenty of room for dancing.

And that choreography is the star of the show, with tap dancing, foot-stomping, jump roping, prop throwing and lots of other spectacular movement. Mosher also steals the show whenever she is on as the goofy, kind-hearted Louise (think Carol Burnett).

Songs aren’t exactly the same as the movie (the controversial, black-faced number “Abraham” has been eliminated), but the firecracker dance remains.

The show has been extended twice, through Dec. 21. Its charm and old-fashioned trip to a much simpler time can’t help but bring a smile to the face of a more modern audience looking for escape.

Holiday Inn plays at the Goodspeed Opera House, 6 Main St., East Haddam. Performances: Wednesday at 2 and 7:30 pm; Thursday at 7:30 pm and select matinees at 2 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturdays at 3 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm with select performances at 6:30 pm. Tickets $15-$77.50  860 873-8668; www.goodspeed.org.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)
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