Thursday, October 16, 2014

'Holiday Inn' hits all the right notes at Goodspeed

EAST HADDAM -- "Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn" isn't a lot of things that are popular today. It's not modern or ironic, it's not profane, it's not intellectually deep, it's not dark and it's not a zombie show.
But the music-filled production about an entertainer who buys a Connecticut farmhouse does so much well that it's a three-hour smile (and a chuckle and a big laugh or two).
With considerable skill in cast and crew, producer Michael Price's "Holiday Inn" is great entertainment.
Who goes to the theater for joy anymore? Well, possibly Goodspeed's well-aged crowd (packed to its scenic rafters on press night after weeks of previews). But an older audience is too simple an answer.
And it's also too simple to say that the musical is in this reviewer's wheelhouse since I'm in my late 50s. After all, my generation was more interested in "Hair," The Rolling Stones and Neil Young than old-school musicals with Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby.
I don't even like some of that era's classic musicals, such as "South Pacific." ("Happy Talk" makes me want to hurl.) But Goodspeed's tuneful version of "Holiday Inn"can really make you appreciate this art form, this 1930s-1950s song-and-dance spectacular about a romance, show biz and some mid-century American characters and values.
With earnest effort and skill, the musical (extended through Dec. 21) makes us appreciate Goodspeed's role in preserving, celebrating and presenting this genre of musical theater.
The casting is nearly perfect: Noah Racey (from left above) plays smooth hoofer Ted Hanover, Hayley Podschun plays his blonde dance partner, Patti Murin plays the ex-dancer whose family owned the farm and Tally Sessions works up a sweat and earns his big applause as Jim Hardy, who buys the farm (a lesser joke in the show) and is convinced to put on shows there during holidays. Danny Rutigliano, Noah Marlowe and (especially) Susan Mosher are scene-stealers who keep the audience laughing -- Mosher as the theatrical mashup version (with a hilarious twist) of Carol on "The Bob Newhart Show," Alice on "The Brady Bunch" and Andrea Martin on "SCTV."

Holiday Inn features music by Irving Berlin and a new book by Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge, with some well-landing references to Connecticut. Greenberg directs the Goodspeed production with Michael O'Flaherty as musical director of a the roughly eight-piece band. Choreography, also good, is by Denis Jones. 
 Curtain times for the show are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (with select performances at 2:00 p.m.), Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. (with select performances at 6:30 p.m.). The Thanksgiving week schedule will be 11/24 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., 11/28 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., 11/29 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and 11/30 at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.                              
Tickets (starting at $27) are available through the Box Office (860.873.8668), open seven days a week, or on-line at

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