Studio 54, New York
Review by Deirdre Donovan
As seen October 9, 2016
Runs through January 15, 2017
Click here to see production photos!
Thanks to Gordon Greenberg, theatergoers have a chance to see Irving Berlin’s patriotic musical Holiday Inn on a New York stage for the first-time ever. Greenberg, who directs the production, and wrote the book (with Chad Hodge), whips up a confection that is the perfect antidote to the holiday frenzy in the Big Apple.
In case you need a refresher, Holiday Inn tells the story of Jim Hardy (Bryce Pinkham) who decides to leave show business and become a Connecticut farmer. As it happens, he fails at farming and finds that he misses the excitement of New York. Fate steps in when he meets Linda Mason (Lora Lee Gayer), a local teacher who once aspired to be a New York actress. They both agree to morph the farmhouse into a nightclub that is open on holidays only. Things get complicated, however, when Jim’s best friend Ted (Corbin Bleu) materializes on the scene and takes a shine to Linda, who is a snappy dancer like himself. Ted would like to spirit Linda away to Hollywood but Jim, who loves Linda, wants her to stay on at “Holiday Inn.” What Linda -- and the rest of the characters -- decide, make up the rest of this happily-ever-after story.
Okay, we all remember Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire as Jim and Ted in the original 1942 film. And it would be silly to pretend that their legendary performances have been erased from our memory banks. But to lean on one of the song titles from the show, we are “marching along with time.” And, dammit, Bryce Pinkham and Corbin Bleu surely step into their predecessor’s shoes with panache. Pinkham, who last was seen on Broadway in his Tony-nominated performance in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder jumps through all the hoops of his current role and impressively lands on his feet. Whether his Jim is wooing Linda alone, or competing with his best friend Ted for her attentions, Pinkham is every inch the romantic lead here. Corbin Bleu, best-known for his break-out performance in High School Musical, is well-cast as the slick Ted. No question he can act. But his real forte is dancing, and dance he does. Bleu makes it look effortless in the ensemble number with the show girls, “You’re Easy to Dance With.” But he really shifts into high-gear with that (literally) explosive number “Let’s Say It With Firecrackers.” The women are in fine form too! Lora Lee Gayer (Doctor Zhivago), as Linda, inhabits her character with a perfect blending of old-fashioned virtues and dreaminess. Megan Sikora is well-cast as the showgirl Lila. And Megan Lawrence, as the rough-and-ready caretaker Louise, adds comic relief to every scene she’s in.
While the acting and dancing will win you over, the best part of Holiday Inn is in its scrumptious songs, courtesy of Berlin. And under Andy Einhorn’s musical direction, the golden tunes, not only will take you to nostalgia-land, but remind you of Berlin’s genius. There’s the unapologetically sentimental song, “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” that wonderfully underscores Jim and Ted’s rivalry over Linda with lightning-quick tempo changes. And then there’s that song you already know by heart, “White Christmas.” If it doesn’t melt your heart in Act 1, just wait for its reprise in Act 2. There are, in fact, over 20 songs in all to charm your ear and gloriously transport you through the four seasons.
Anna Louizos’ set, abetted by Jeff Croiter’s lighting, is spot-on. Louizos evokes the mood and atmosphere of the 1940s with multiple sets, ranging from a nightclub in Flatbush, New York to the rustic Connecticut farmhouse and its later permutation into a nightclub. Having seen her excellent sets in Broadway’s School of Rock and In the Heights, and other New York productions, I can only say that she is a crackerjack designer who works well on a big canvas. And let’s not forget the other creative artists! Dennis Jones’ choreography is loud, crisp, and precise, with enough toe-tappin’ moves to satisfy the most discerning dance maven. And, lastly, Alejo Vietti’s period costumes are a montage of glitz, glamour, frumpiness, and good taste.
Under the superb direction of Greenberg, this Holiday Inn will skate clean into your heart. Sure, it’s corny at times. But who cares as long as we’re listening to those Berlin songs spilling over the footlights and soaring all the way to row G in the upper mezzanine?
So, Berlin devotees, don’t procrastinate on going to this show. Holiday Inn is in a limited run at Studio 54 that ends on January 15th. And you don’t want to ring in 2017 without seeing this charming new film-to-stage musical.
Through January 15, 2017.
On Broadway at Studio 54. 254 W. 54 Street.
For tickets and more information, phone 212.719.1300 or online at www.roundabouttheatre.org
Running Time: 2 hours; 15 minutes with one intermission.
Click here to see production photos!