HOLIDAY INN: THE NEW IRVING BERLIN MUSICAL

It’s the Christmas season and we’re singing carols, hearing silver bells, chomping on candy canes, and lingering under the mistletoe anticipating stolen kisses. Hearts are mellow and the spirit of good will permeates the atmosphere.

Yes, we’re giving, and receiving, gaily wrapped parcels. One big yuletide gift from Drayton Entertainment is the perky stage musical “Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn,” adapted from the Oscar-winning 1942 movie “Holiday Inn” starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. It introduced, and is fondly remembered for Bing Crosby’s crooning “White Christmas” (which he repeated in the 1954 film “White Christmas”.) Berlin’s composition has been a seasonal favorite ever since.

The theatrical tap-and-tuner takes us back to 1946. Jim, who is part of a song-and-dance trio, has grown tired of the showbiz life, putting him at odds with partners Ted, and Lila who is also Jim’s fiancée. The jilted girlfriend and Ted hit the road as a song and dance duo while Jim settles into a quiet life buying a farmhouse in rural Connecticut. Hit with financial troubles, as well as missing his former fiancée, Jim, having second thoughts, re-enters the entertainment life by converting the farm into a seasonal inn offering holiday themed song and dance shows. Does this mean a revival of his love relationship with Lila? Well musicals are grounded on fantasy. Let your mind wander.

The story, though flimsy and predictable, blends laugh-out-loud comedy with exuberant, shameless old-fashioned pick’em up an’ put’em down terpsichorean finesse to the rhythms of Irving Berlin gems. Revived are “Blue Skies,” “Easter Parade,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “Shaking the Blues Away,” “Heat Wave,” “It’s a Lovely Day Today,” and, of course, “White Christmas.” These standards from the Great American Songbook will have patrons of a certain age humming the long ago hits while leaving the theatre.

The show premiered in Connecticut and played St. Louis, before opening on Broadway in 2016. A full out production was also televised on PBS. This is the Canadian premiere of the Drayton Entertainment production on stage at the Hamilton Family Theatre in Cambridge, and even with a less financial layout than the Broadway spectacle, the show has a Broadway feel, as well as the advantage of being geographically closer than New York’s Great White Way. Sets, costumes, lighting, colour and tip top talent (singing/dancing/acting), had the audience responding with cheering praise on opening night.

“Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn” delivers a theme of optimism played out in the dazzling, rhythmic, feet-do-your-stuff tap spectacle “Shaking the Blues Away”, a prelude to the serenity and emotionally stirring good tidings voiced by “White Christmas” at the curtain call.

The celebration continues through December 30.

Alex Reynolds

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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