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“Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn”

Goodspeed Opera House

“Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn,” the world premiere musical currently playing at the Goodspeed Opera House, is a grandly entertaining evening of fun with a host of wonderful songs and performances. Based on the 1942 film, “Holiday Inn,” which starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, the Goodspeed Opera House production has borrowed the plot of the film, but added extra characters and extra Irving Berlin tunes to fill out the show. The result is a highly enjoyable musical with three knockout performances by the trio of leads, Tally Sessions, Noah Racey, and Patti Murin. And though there are moments when the book (written by Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge) can feel a little corny or overly sentimental, there’s always a sharp line or a great song and dance number to set the musical right again. “Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn” has recently been extended to December 21st at the Goodspeed Opera House and it is recommended that you catch the show to experience the old-fashioned delights that this musical has in spades.

Speaking of “old-fashioned,” before the start of the show the audience is immediately greeted to a terrific overture (remember them?) played by a crackerjack band headed by musical director Michael O’Flaherty. This helps set the tone of the evening, and director Gordon Greenberg and choreographer Denis Jones manage to keep the musical’s pleasures flowing from beginning to end. As mentioned, one of the biggest assets of “Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn” is its star trio of performers. In the central role of Jim Hardy, Tally Sessions is a joy. Resembling a young Jerry Orbach, Tally Sessions plays the owner of the Holiday Inn and manages to carry the show with ease. In the leading lady role of Linda Mason, Patti Murin is quite lovely and is able to evoke the era of the 1940s flawlessly. Finally, as the character Ted Hanover, Noah Racey (who I saw do terrific work in the Broadway productions of “Curtains” and “Follies”) is a true song and dance man in the grandest style and, on more than one occasion, his tap dancing literally stops the show.

It should be mentioned that Noah Racey gets a lot of help in the tap dancing department, for “Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn” is filled with a chorus of extraordinarily talented performers and choreographer Denis Jones (whose work I will soon see in the highly anticipated Broadway musical “Honeymoon in Vegas”) keeps those marvelous dance numbers happily percolating throughout. (Indeed, this is one of the strongest ensembles of singer/dancers that I have ever seen). Of course, without good songs, these dance numbers would never go over as well, so it is a real treat that this musical employs a couple dozen great Irving Berlin tunes to keep the show humming.

For the film “Holiday Inn,” Irving Berlin wrote songs for every conceivable holiday (there’s even one for Washington’s Birthday, called “I Can’t Tell a Lie”) and the Goodspeed Opera House production has filled their production with all of these wonderful songs, as well as adding others from the songwriter’s enormous catalogue of tunes. Naturally, for anyone familiar with “Holiday Inn,” there is the immortal “White Christmas” and one of the nicest moments in the show (not to be revealed here) is how charmingly the song is first introduced in the musical. In fact, just about every number is a big hit, and I will confess that I never thought that I’d ever get the chance to see the song “Let’s Take an Old-Fashioned Walk” (from Irving Berlin’s 1949 musical, “Miss Liberty”) performed onstage; it proves to be a joy.

“Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn” has other distinct assets, including a scene-stealing performance by Susan Mosher in the comedy role of Louise; character actor Danny Rutigliano, who is just about perfect as the producer; and another star dancer, Hayley Podschun, as the lively Lila Dixon. And, while the plot of the musical may, at times, be on the silly side, the cavalcade of smashing songs, great performers, and knockout dance numbers keep the show joyfully afloat. By all means, check into “Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn” at the Goodspeed Opera House—you’ll be glad you did.

“Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn” continues performances at the Goodspeed Opera House through December 21st. For tickets, please visit www.goodspeed.org or call the box office at 860-873-8668.

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