Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn | The Muny

Holiday-Inn 75Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn is a pleasant surprise.

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday-Inn 500

It’s crazy to think show number three of The Muny’s 97th season is already upon us! Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn is a pleasant surprise. When the season was announced this show, honestly, appealed least to me. I’d never heard anything about this musical—good, bad, or otherwise—nor have I seen the movie upon which it is based. The playbill, however, cleared up my confusion over never having heard of the stage production. There’s a completely logical reason for that—this show has only been performed on one other occasion. With this in mind my excitement level rose. It’s fun knowing I’ve seen something that’s practically brand new!

Holiday Inn‘s storyline intrigued me from the get go. Jim Hardy (Colin Donnell) performs alongside his best friend Ted Hanover (Noah Racey) and his girlfriend Lila Dixon (Holly Ann Butler). Jim’s the better singer, Ted’s the better dancer and Lila is, well, eye candy who excels in both! This is their gimmick, and it seems to be working, except there’s one major problem. Jim wants out of show business, and because he was under the impression Lila wanted the same thing he buys them a farm house and some land at auction. To his dismay, Lila heads to Chicago with Ted to take advantage of one last showbiz opportunity. She promises to join Ted as soon as she can.

As well-meaning as Ted is, the man doesn’t know a thing about farming, let alone tending to the noisy air conditioning units. In his new city, two women enter his life. One is Louise Badger (Nancy Opel), who is more or less a jack-of-all-trades in need of a place to stay. In return for letting Louise have one of the rooms in the inn, she helps Ted with everything from fixing his barn to cooking. Louise is a phenomenal character, probably my favorite of the production actually. She’s just the absolute coolest lady and is a hoot! The type of person you’d want to hang out with for sure. You may have guessed that the second woman is a beautiful, young (SINGLE!) teacher who conveniently loves the area, grew up in the inn, and was once too a performer. Her name is Linda Mason (Patti Murin), and she’s splendid.

I’ll let you wait and find out for yourselves how the concept for a holiday-themed inn comes to fruition. Let’s just say song writing and performing is in Ted’s blood; he couldn’t give it up that easy! Additionally, you’ll have to attend to learn what becomes of all these characters!
The set for this show isn’t anything too spectacular, but it doesn’t really need to be. The inn is after all quite old and a bit plain and the clubs at which Ted and Lila perform have little staging other than signs featuring the names of the joints. What did shine though was the incredible costume design work of Alejo Vietti! There is a show in a show element to this production, so the costumes for the various song and dance numbers are top notch. (The New Year’s gowns were my personal favorite!)

Every performer put on a strong show, with not one weak link in the chain. In case you overlook it in your playbill, you must know that the two leads, the actors who play Ted and Linda, are actually newly married in real life. Knowing this makes the scenes they share all the more magical. How often do you get to see two actors with that level of chemistry? When it came to feelings for each other, they didn’t even have to act.

Since seeing the show, there are many aspects of it that I’ve found my mind drifting back to, such as when Ted sings “White Christmas” for Linda, and when Ted, Jim, and Linda sing “Easter Parade,” which was another moment of superb costuming. The Easter bonnets the women wore for that number were out of this world! Just the premise itself continues to excite me. I wish such a place as Holiday Inn truly did exist. All in all, this production of Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn, a whole year of holidays in one musical, has the spirit of a classic movie, and it’s sweet down to its core. My favorite of this season thus far. | Megan Washausen

Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn runs through July 12. For ticket information, visit http://www.muny.org/

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