Broadway Review: “Holiday Inn” at Studio 54

October 10, 2016 | Broadway | Tags: ,
Broadway Review: “Holiday Inn” at Studio 54 (Through January 15, 2017)
Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge
Choreography by Denis Jones
Directed by Gordon Greenberg
Reviewed by Michele Willens
Theatre Reviews Limited

This is a musical you go in humming, That’s because the star is the late composer Irving Berlin. Consider this a medley of some of his greatest hits.

“Holiday Inn,” playing at Studio 54, is a film-to-stage adaptation, much as “White Christmas” was a few seasons back. That one has had some success as an annual traveling vehicle. “Holiday Inn” – which is, in fact, where the song “White Christmas” was first heard – may not have that kind of future life. It heavily depends on first class singers and dancers as well as classy production values. “Holiday Inn” has all that in this Roundabout offering and, speaking for myself, it made for a pleasant Sunday afternoon.

Let me confess here that the 1942 movie is one of my favorites. Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire play a song and dance team (Bing sings, Fred can dance a little) which breaks up when one craves a simpler life, and buys a farm in Connecticut. Eventually, bills must be paid, so – let’s put on a show! The inn is transformed into a tourist destination that offers song and dance only on the occasions when everyone else has the day off.

If you are seeking conflict or edge, go west three long blocks to “The Underground Railroad Game.” The idea of suspense at the Holiday Inn is whether the dancing half of the former team will find the girl he glided with one drunken night. There is a love triangle or two, but mostly what this production has is great music and top-notch performances. Taking on the Crosby role is Bryce Pinkham. Broadway-ites know him as the Tony-nominated leading man of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” and he does an excellent job here. The breakout star may be the charismatic Corbin Bleu. This is the savviest casting in that Bleu was one of the stars of “High School Musical” and appeared on a season of “Dancing with The Stars.”

The three stock female roles (the ambitious blonde, the sweet and wry school teacher with dashed dreams, and the wisecracking, matchmaking housekeeper) are played with verve by Lora Lee Gayer, Megan Lawrence and Megan Sikora. And a special shout-out to child actor Morgan Gao, whose job it is to bring the bad news from the bank, and who hits every line out of the park.

But the draw here is no secret: after all, the official title is Holiday Inn, “The New Irving Berlin Musical.” Besides the songs from the original movie, (“White Christmas,” “Steppin’ Out with My Baby,” “You’re Easy to Dance With,” “Song of Freedom”) a slew of other Berliners are thrown in. (“Easter Parade,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “Blue Skies”) The long-gone Gershwins received the same treatment in shows like “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” placing much of their songbook around a slim story line.

Director Gordon Greenberg is a relatively new name for Broadway and generally keeps the action moving, He also co-write the script with Chad Hodge. The lines are less than LOL but more than serviceable. “(“I always wanted to be normal. Right after I’m famous.” Arriving in Connecticut, a New York agent remarks, “I think I just got bit by a wasp.”) There are a couple dance numbers, choreographed by Denis Jones, that bring down the house with a combination of tapping, jumping rope, juggling and more. All that being said, I have no idea how this show will do. But after a year of mean spirited vitriol and deception, it honestly felt good to me.