Goodspeed Offers a Seasonal "Holiday Inn"

by Tom Holehan

The holidays have been going strong the last few months with Goodspeed Musical’s hit production of “Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn”, a new musical so popular that the theatre has already extended its run three times. There is no end, apparently, to the extent audiences enjoy celebrating the holidays and Goodspeed’s spiffy if often tiresome production seems to fit the bill perfectly.

Based on the 1942 Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire classic of the same name, this world premiere follows the basic storyline of the film: the establishment of a Connecticut Inn that is only open on the holidays. It is run by one member of a romantic triangle that includes Lila (Haley Podschun), a stars-in-her-eyes ingenue, and two hoofers, Jim (Tally Sessions) and Ted (Noah Racey). Marriage plans between Jim and Lila are put on hold as Lila pursues her Hollywood dreams with Ted and Jim runs the inn waiting for her. But, lonely for Lila, he slowly begins to connect with Linda (a pert Patti Murin), one of the locals who, just so happens, also sings like a dream. It’s cornball and slight and never makes much sense, but there are enough great Irving Berlin songs to ease the pain including "Shaking the Blues Away", "Easter Parade", Heat Wave", "What'll I Do?" and the perennial, “White Christmas”.

Both Sessions and Racey are tireless in leading a game ensemble of singers and dancers through a seemingly endless number of holidays (Washington's Birthday and Independence Day among them). Racey, in particular, is a remarkably agile and energetic dancer while Sessions' pleasing voice is notable in "The Little Things in Life" and "Blue Skies". The lead women are good without being particularly memorable and the annoying "sidekick role" of a lady handyman, played broadly by Susan Mosher, might be a character that book writers Gordon Greenberg (who also directed) and Chad Hodge consider cutting (or at least re-casting!).

The ensemble numbers, however, do not disappoint and credit choreographer Denis Jones with injecting some freshness into the somewhat familiar material. Particularly good is the use of a jump rope in one lively sequence that nearly brought down the house. Also terrific is young scene-stealer Noah Marlowe whose deadpan delivery is a delightful surprise even while getting doors slammed in his face. He is priceless.

Director Gordon Greenberg has worked well with a talented design team that includes Anna Louizos (scenery), Alejo Vietti (costumes) and Jeff Croiter (lighting). That songbook of Berlin standards and the holiday spirit the musical celebrates will no doubt be enough for most people even as I felt a tad Scrooge-like checking my watch and hoping for an early exit.

“Holiday Inn” continues at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Connecticut through December 28. For further information or ticket reservations call the theatre box office at 860.873.8668 or visit: www.goodspeed.org.

Tom Holehan is one of the original founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

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