Roundabout Theatre Company’s new production of “Holiday Inn” at Studio 54 in New York City is an evening of zesty fun. The full title of the show is actually “Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical,” though the show is not really new, per se: taking its cue from the 1942 Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire film version of the same name, “Holiday Inn” at Studio 54 follows the movie’s screenplay rather faithfully. Still, this new show positively bubbles with life, especially in the dance numbers, skillfully choreographed by Denis Jones. Another huge asset of the show is the cast, with Bryce Pinkham and Corbin Bleu taking on, respectively, the Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire roles. And though I am usually partial to new musicals having new scores, “Holiday Inn” at Studio 54 is truly a perky and happy good time.
It should be noted that this new “Holiday Inn” is based on a staging of the musical that played the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut a couple years ago. I saw that production and enjoyed it thoroughly, with the show winning the award for Best Musical from the Connecticut Critics Circle. At Goodspeed, it was evident that the show would have legs and a future, but director Gordon Greenberg and the producers of the musical took the unusual step of pretty much replacing the entire cast from the Goodspeed Opera House production.
Luckily, the company of performers at Studio 54 is pretty dandy, and it is nice to see “Holiday Inn” in a bigger theatre than the tiny one at Goodspeed: the scenic design by Anna Louizos is more elaborate, with smoother scene changes, plus there are wonderful costumes by Alejo Vietti, and top of the line lighting design by Jeff Croiter and sound design by Keith Caggiano. Also, expert musical director Andy Einhorn leads a truly swinging orchestra, with the musicians placed in the boxes on either side of the stage.
As noted, “Holiday Inn” is based on the 1942 film version, with the plot revolving around Jim Hardy (Bryce Pinkham) opening up an inn in Connecticut that is open only on the holidays, in which his Broadway friends come to put on a show to celebrate each holiday. Truth be told, the story is pretty slim, with the romantic plot concerning Bryce Pinkham as Jim Hardy trying to keep the girl he loves, Linda Mason (the pretty and talented Lora Lee Gayer), away from his buddy, Ted Hanover (played by Corbin Bleu). Still, if the plot is lighter than air, the musical itself more than makes up for it with its spectacular tap numbers and an amazing collection of Irving Berlin tunes, that all sound great in their new Larry Blank orchestrations.
Indeed, there is at least one show-stopping dance in each act and the songs include such classics as “Heat Wave,” “Blue Skies,” and, of course, the immortal “White Christmas” (which won the Oscar for Best Song in the film version). Bryce Pinkham is a delight in the Bing Crosby part, singing beautifully throughout, and it’s such a pleasure to see him playing a nice guy after his devious work in the musical, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.” Corbin Bleu is similarly talented, in the Fred Astaire role, and, boy, does he tap up a storm, especially in “Steppin’ Out With My Baby” and the second act, “Let’s Say It With Fireworks”/”Song of Freedom.”
The leading ladies in the show are also good, with Lora Lee Gayer playing the nice, wholesome girl, Linda Mason, while Megan Sikora heats things up as showgirl and star dancer, Lila Dixon. Mention also must be made that, at the performance I attended, the understudy, Jenifer Foote went on as the wise-cracking character, Louise (usually played by Megan Lawrence). To be honest, Foote was so grand and confident in the role, that she hardly seemed to be just subbing in the part, at all. Finally, the ensemble of dancers is among the best currently working on Broadway right now, and “Holiday Inn” would be worth seeing just to see this company bringing down the house in the succession of wonderful dance numbers.
“Holiday Inn” at Studio 54 proves to be just as fresh and vibrant as it was at the Goodspeed Opera House (though I slightly missed Noah Racey in the part now being played by Corbin Bleu) and, for a show featuring a collection of old songs, the musical is lively enough to almost make one forget the original 1942 film. “Holiday Inn” is truly a joyous lark of a show and is filled with so much airy fun that you are likely to leave the theatre with a big grin on your face.
“Holiday Inn” is currently playing at Studio 54 in New York City. For tickets, please visit http://www.roundabouttheatre.org or call 212-719-1300.
Photo (L-R): Corbin Bleu, Lora Lee Gayer, and Bryce Pinkham, and company
Photo by Joan Marcus