|Cast of Holiday Inn (Mark Kitaoka)|
Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn
5th Avenue Theatre
Through December 31, 2017
Ah, Lorna Luft! We are so happy you are gracing our local stage and bringing a lot of joy with you! You make Holiday Inn so much fun!
If you have never seen the 1942 oldy-but-goodie movie, Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Virginia Dale and Marjorie Reynolds, you probably know nothing about the new musical on stage at the 5th Avenue Theatre except the holiday-themed name. Jim Hardy, Ted Hanover and Lila Dixon (Eric Ankrim, Matt Owen, and Taryn Darr) are a song-and-dance trio working to make it big. Jim and Lila are engaged, but they have completely different goals.
Jim wants a quiet life in the country and Lila still has stars in her eyes. Jim finds an old farmhouse in Connecticut and snaps it up, but just then, they have a great six week offer. Lila wants to go and promises to come to Connecticut after, so they part. (This is a bit different from the movie, so if you know the movie, know that the musical won’t track exactly.) We’re not surprised that Lila doesn’t ever move there.
In Connecticut, Jim meets the prior owner, Linda Mason (Sarah Rose Davis) and her handy-person, Louise (Lorna Luft), and finds himself in financial trouble. Louise gets the idea to invite his dance troupe friends for Christmas. They all say they’d like to help save the farm but are only available…during holidays! So, Jim decides they will only be open ON holidays!
Of course, it turns out that Linda is a helluva singer! And Ted shows up for the holiday after Lila has dumped him, and threatens to lure Linda to the big-time as his dance partner. So, yes, Jim’s love interest is in jeopardy again. But this is a comedy, so we know that Linda won’t leave Jim, after all.
Here’s the good news: Ankrim and Davis are adorable together and Davis gets to wow with the best songs. Darr is her usual wry, funny, talented self, though she doesn’t get nearly enough to do. And as said at the top, Luft is a lovely treasure in this stereotypical role, and she also gets a couple of great songs!
So, it’s definitely a pleasing evening. There are some wonderful songs you probably know, like: White Christmas (this was the first movie to feature that song), Heat Wave, It’s A Lovely Day Today, Be Careful, It’s My Heart, Cheek to Cheek, and Easter Parade. The ensemble does their usual great job singing and dancing and giving us a good time.
It’s not their best or most exciting show. There is something missing and it’s difficult to put a finger on it. Owen’s casting is, unfortunately, part of the problem. He really doesn’t project enough charisma out into the audience for us to know why these women keep falling for him. Choreographically, he’s also not allowed to show that he can dance rings around anyone. Either that’s because he can’t really, or because James Rocco, the choreographer, didn’t create enough of a special focus on his abilities. The sound system is now so good that the night I saw the show, I was able to hear Owen’s difficulties with staying on tune while dancing – an unfortunate thing for a song-and-dance guy.
However, it’s still a lovely holiday treat and worth overlooking any little flaws. And because it’s more than just Christmas, those who get overloaded with Christmas can relax for most of the show.