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A CurtainUp Review
Holiday Inn
By David A. Rosenberg
It's a good idea in our own pursuit
of happiness to pause and just be happy.
—Ted Hanover
Holiday Inn
Tally Sessions (bottom) and ensemble members
Start with a jolly overture. Curtain up, then a lively opening number: "Steppin' Out With My Baby," paired with "I'll Capture Your Heart Singing," setting up the rivalry between dancer Ted Hanover and singer Jim Hardy. "Ah," you think, "this will be a welcome respite from all the horrendous news about disease and war from home and abroad."

But Holiday Inn, the Irving Berlin musical having its world premiere at Goodspeed, is mostly downhill from there. Based on the 1942 Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire movie, the libretto, written by Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge, is featherweight. Some of the performances are just irritating, the format is conventional and the whole shebang is about as emotional as a dead turkey.

Lila is Jim's fiancée, but she doesn't want to get married just yet because her "career" seems to be on the upswing, what with her and Ted's engagement at Chicago's Pump Room on the schedule. ("Why would you get married?" asks Danny, their agent. "I thought the two of you are in love.")

Jim, ready to settle down, buys a fixer-upper Connecticut farm, although he knows nothing about tilling soil. Buoyed by locals — an intrusive kid named Charlie; Linda, an attractive former singer who once owned the farm; and Louise, everyone's BFF handywoman and comic relief— Jim soon fits in.

After several familiar and unfamiliar Irving Berlin songs (from "Blue Skies" and "What'll I Do?" to "Marching Along with Time" and "Nothing More to Say"), the chorus shows up for the weekend. They'd like to stay longer, but have to get back for their show.

Eureka! Why not open the inn on holidays only? Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's Day, Washington's Birthday, Easter? (No Thanksgiving: For some reason, they performed "Plenty to be Thankful For" in a nightclub, but let that pass.)

There's lots more plot, all of it singularly uninteresting. But we've come for the singing and dancing, and the 26 songs, right? They're staged by choreographer Denis Jones and director Greenberg with admirable energy, culminating in a sensational jump-rope sequence.

Noah Racey is a rakish Ted, seducing the audience with come-on smiles. His dancing is fleet, a welcome break from the surrounding jokes. ("Girls are like buses – miss one and another will be along in ten minutes.") As Jim, Tally Sessions is a cuddly lost soul, not too petulant, not too nerdy.

Patti Murin is lovely to look at and sings stylishly, but her unprojected dialogue scenes are lost. Hayley Podschun is a squeaky Lila, while Susan Mosher‘s Louise channels Carol Burnett. Relief arrives with Danny Rutigliano as Danny and young Noah Marlowe as the curious Charlie, bringing bite to this G-rated throwback.

Anna Louizos set and Alejo Vietti's costumes are stylish (Vietti's witty Easter bonnets are candy for the eye), while Jeff Croiter's lighting ranges from warm for the farm scenes to harsh for the nightclub ones. Kudos to the hard-working ensemble, to conductor Michael O'Flaherty and his orchestra. But Holiday Inn is little more than a jukebox musical, using Irving Berlin's catalogue no less.

Holiday Inn
Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin, Book by Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge
Directed by Gordon Greenberg
Choreographed by Denis Jones
Musical Direction by Michael O'Flaherty
CAST: Tally Sessions (Jim Hardy), Noah Racey (Ted Hanover), Hayley Podschun (Lila Dixon), Danny Rutigliano (Danny Reed), Patti Murin (Linda Mason), Noah Marlowe (Charlie Winslow), Susan Mosher (Louise), Alissa Alter, Abby Church, Darien Crago, Caley Crawford, Jeremiah Ginn, Juliane Godfrey, Laura Harrison, Bryan Thomas Hunt, Charles MacEachern, Karl Skyler Urban, Amy Van Norstrand, John T. Wolfe (Ensemble)
Scenic Design: Anna Louizos
Costume Design: Alejo Vietti
Lighting Design: Jeff Croiter
Sound Design: Jay Hilton
Wig & Hair Design: Mark Adam Rampmeyer
Associate Chroeographer: Joyce Chittick
Orchestrations: Dan DeLange
Vocal & Dance Arrangements: Sam Davis
Assistant Music Director: William J. Thomas
Production Manager: R. Glen Grusmark
Production Stage Manager: Bradley G. Spachman
Casting: Stuart Howard & Paul Hardt
Associate Producer: Bob Alwine
Line Producer: Donna Lynn Cooper Hilton
Running Time: Act I – 67 minutes, Act II – 62 minutes, with a 20-minute intermission
Goodspeed Musicals, East Haddam, Conn. – Sept. 19-Dec. 21
Reviewed Oct. 19, 2014
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