Holiday Inn

Written on May 19th, 2018

A Strong Cast of True Triple Threats   

Imagine a musical with the warmth of Christmas, the spring colours of Easter, and the fun of dancing turkeys at Thanksgiving!  Drayton’s Holiday Inn is an enchanting romp through the calendar with stops at all the major holidays for singing and dancing.  What’s not to like? Currently on stage in Drayton, the show comes to Grand Bend and Cambridge later this year.

This musical is making its premiere in Canada on the Drayton stage.  It is based on the 1942 black and white movie, which starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.  But it didn’t make the change to live theatre until it opened on Broadway in 2016.  The plot of the live musical is an improvement over the movie.  While still set in the 1940s, it is updated for today’s audiences.  In fact, it’s a musical inside a movie that turns into a movie again.  The show begins with a black and white movie screen listing the credits!

The plot is charming but fairly predictable – so I don’t think I’ll be spoiling the story with my description.  Jim, Ted and Lila have a trio song and dance act.  Jim is tired of performing and proposes to Lila, telling her he has bought a farm in Connecticut where they can settle down.  But Lila prefers to keep chasing stardom, and stays on entertaining, as Ted’s partner.  Jim meets Linda whose family used to own the big farmhouse.  When Jim has difficulties paying the bills on the farm, and he learns Linda was once a performer, he suggests they open an inn with live shows on all holidays.  Thus Holiday Inn is created out of the farm.  Jim and Linda’s budding romance is nudged along by Louise, the farm handy-person.

All goes well, until Ted returns, slightly drunk.  Lila has left him to marry a rich Texan, and he’s looking for a new dance partner to go to Hollywood with him to make a movie.  His agent, Danny, comes to the farm to see Ted dance with Linda.  Of course, Jim is jealous thinking Ted is stealing another of his dates.  He and Linda argue, and she goes to Hollywood to make a movie with Ted, about how the farm becomes Holiday Inn.  She’s very homesick, so when Jim goes after her, she happily returns home with him.  Lila finds out that her husband “owed more than he owned” and comes back to make the movie with Ted.  The show closes with Jim and Linda’s wedding at Holiday Inn.

Drayton’s favourite leading lady, Jayme Armstrong, is a delightful Linda, as she sings and dances effortlessly.  Paired with Zach Trimmer as Jim (he was also her Jimmy in Thoroughly Modern Millie), the two have sweet chemistry as their characters get to know each other. Trimmer has a rich voice, as smooth as Bing Crosby singing the old Irving Berlin favourites.  Zachery Scott Berger, as Ted, is a dancer as talented as Fred Astaire.  Alexandra Herzog, as Lila, is dazzling, particularly in the dance numbers.

Laura Caswell is hilarious in the role of Louise. As well as being the fix-it person at the inn, she sees herself as a matchmaker.  She joins in singing several numbers and provides the comedy with her clever quips.  Caswell nearly steals the show with her stage presence.  Also providing laughs is Drayton’s favourite funny guy, Keith Savage as Danny. A youngster, William Thompson, plays Charlie, the child who is headed for a career in banking.  Thompson can even make delivering overdue mortgage notices funny.

A solid ensemble of 10 triple threats takes the audience through the four seasons at Holiday Inn.  There are special numbers for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentines, Easter, and Independence Day.  This ensemble both sings and dances expertly, making it look easy.  Most notable are the high-energy tap dancing numbers.

Director Michael Lichtefeld keeps the show moving at a fast pace.  Scene changes are frequent and the moves are made quickly.  For instance, a rail fence on the farm is making a fast exit as Las Vegas dancers tap their way in. There are no lulls in the action.  Costumes are gorgeous, from the feathered turkeys, to the New Year’s gowns, and the Easter bonnets.  The music is wonderful – a six member band, under the direction of Jeannie Wyse, sounds remarkably good, and offers all the old favourites:  “Blue Skies”, “Happy Holidays”, “Easter Parade”, “Cheek to Cheek”, and more.

This is the show that introduced the song “White Christmas” and later spawned the movie of the same name.  The similarities between the two musicals are obvious: couples finally finding the right partner, and a meddling busybody almost getting in the way, but providing laughs.

Another interesting feature of the old movie – it gave its name to the hotel chain.

It may be a cliché to say that this show has something for everyone – but this time it’s true!  Snow falling, spring fashions, farm wheelbarrows, and Vegas show girls.  With powerful singing and lively dancing, you can celebrate your favourite holiday!

Holiday Inn continues with eight shows a week until June 3 at Drayton Festival Theatre, Drayton. Tickets are available by calling Toll Free 1-855-372-9866 or visit www.draytonentertainment.com.

Holiday Inn will be on stage at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend September 13 to30.  Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com   Then it will be at the Hamilton Family Theatre, Cambridge, November 22 to December 30. Tickets are available by calling Toll Free 1-855-372-9866 or Local Box Office 519-747-7788 or check www.draytonentertainment.com.

Photo: Left:  Alexandra Herzog and Zachary Scott Berger and Company.  Right: Zach Trimmer and Company.   Photos by Hilary Gauld Camilleri.

Holiday Inn
Book by Gordon Greenberg & Chad Hodge
Music & Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Based on the film from Universal Pictures
Directed and choreographed by Michael Lichtefeld
Musical Direction by Jeannie Wyse
Performed by Jayme Armstrong, Zach Trimmer, Zachary Scott Berger, Alexandra Herzog, Laura Caswell, Keith Savage, William Thompson, Carla Bennett,   Micah Enzlin, Timothy Gladhill, Josh Graetz, Kayla James, Kelsey Lacombe, Melanie McInenly, Gray Monczka, Matthew Rossoff, and Margaret Thompson.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
Drayton Festival Theatre, Drayton ~ May 16 to June 3, 2018.
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend ~ Sept. 13 to Sept. 30, 2018.
Hamilton Family Theatre, Cambridge ~ Nov. 22 to Dec. 30, 2018.
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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