Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol
Utilizing music and lyrics by Berlin, Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge provide the book for the show, and Greenberg also directs this production. The storyline is not overly complicated yet it is fun to see it play out. As it begins, Lila Dixon (Hayley Podschun) finds herself center stage, literally, between dancing Ted Hanover (Noah Racey) and singing Jim Hardy (Tally Sessions). She goes to Chicago with Tad hoping that they can perform and prosper. Jim takes on an old farm in Connecticut (thinking about raising chickens) and, as fate would have it, finds a young woman named Linda Mason (Patti Murin), whose family used to live at this very place, most appealing in every way. These two combine sweet voices to deliver Berlin's classic "What'll I Do?" They also blend together on "White Christmas."
By the time the second act opens, Jim has taken on the idea of celebrating major holidays at the farmstead, as musically talented people perform tunes like "Easter Parade." Eventually, of course, Tad shows up and hopes to spirit away Linda (a former school teacher), with whom he danced, while drunk, on New Year's Eve. It might seem as if Jim will be doomed to loneliness at the farm where Linda spent her childhood and teenage years. No room for despair here: the ending is far from bleak and, no surprise, far from shocking.
Some of the production numbers are nothing short of sensational. The opener, "Steppin' Out with My Baby," which features those in the first triangle (Jim, Lila, and Ted), gets the show moving with an absolute jolt of adrenalin. "Shaking the Blues Away" includes snappy tap dancing and, yes, a zinging jump rope routine. Racey and Patti Murin join on a terrific tap number late in the second act.
The musical adds and subtracts from the film but, having seen it but once decades ago, I cannot comment further. One does recall Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire as, respectively, the smooth crooner and consummate dancer. The Goodspeed Musicals production includes numbers such as "Heat Wave" and the second out opener, "You're Easy to Dance With."
Holiday Inn also affords the warmly comic Susan Mosher, taking the part of Louise, a woman on the scene to grab the spotlight every time she is on stage. She can paint, she can fix things, she knows the house.
Dan DeLange's orchestrations and Michael O'Flaherty's musical direction are invaluable. This might seems like a simple show but there are many moving parts which need coordination. In that regard, Greenberg, directing, demonstrates great command. Alejo Vietti's costumes perfectly evoke the era of the 1940s and Anna Louizos's different sets are splendid. She, for example, adds vivid color to the farmhouse environs.
Sessions, as Jim, finds the center of the man who has elected to move to, of all places, fictional Midville, Connecticut, and personify one who only hopes for the best. Racey's Ted is looking to make it. The center of the show is certainly Linda Mason, the young woman whose parents raised her on this farm. As a youngster, she dreamt of a career on stage. Murin, playing Linda Mason, is believable, genuineadorably difficult to resist.
For sentimentalists, traditionalists, and those who seek a musical with symmetry, this is one that glitters and might even prompt theatergoers to whistle, hum, or even sing something familiar, like "Blue Skies..." as they stroll down the staircase and out into the afternoon or evening air.
Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn continues at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Connecticut, through December 21st. For tickets, visit goodspeed.org or call (860) 873-8668.
- Fred Sokol