It’s prime time for check­ing in to Hol­i­day Inn

Cam­bridge the­atre is the third stop for Dray­ton En­ter­tain­ment’s pro­duc­tion of the stage ver­sion of the clas­sic film

The Woolwich Observer - - THE ARTS - VERON­ICA REINER

KNOWN FOR BING CROSBY croon­ing out White Christ­mas for the first time, Hol­i­day Inn is a sea­sonal sta­ple. Now a stage pro­duc­tion based on the 1942 film, the mu­si­cal is of­fer­ing up clas­sics such as “Happy Hol­i­day,” “Cheek to Cheek,” and “Blue Skies” at the Hamil­ton Fam­ily The­atre in Cam­bridge.

“We are thrilled to be the first the­atre com­pany in Canada to pro­duce Hol­i­day Inn,” says Alex Mus­takas, artis­tic di­rec­tor of Dray­ton En­ter­tain­ment. “It’s a brand new mu­si­cal with spec­tac­u­lar danc­ing and un­for­get­table songs by Irv­ing Ber­lin. It’s the per­fect show to get ev­ery­one in the hol­i­day spirit.”

As with the movie, Hol­i­day tells the story of Jim Hardy (Zach Trim­mer), who de­cides to leave the tough slog of per­form­ing with part­ners Ted Hanover (Matthew Armet) and Lila Dixon (Alexan­dra Her­zog) for some easy coun­try liv­ing. He buys a farm in Connecticut, plans to marry Lila and set­tle into the good life. Lila bails on the plan be­fore it even be­gins, opt­ing to stay in show biz and pro­fess­ing her love for Ted.

Push­ing ahead with his plans for be­com­ing a farmer, Jim quickly dis­cov­ers there’s noth­ing easy about that life. A year later, he’s come up with a new plan: con­vert­ing the farm­house into an inn that will be open only on hol­i­days. In that ven­ture, he’s joined by Linda Ma­son (Jayme Arm­strong), a young woman with dreams of be­com­ing a mu­si­cal per­former.

Things get com­pli­cated when Ted, hav­ing been ditched by Lila, de­cides Linda would be an ideal dance part­ner, leav­ing Jim with a case of déjà vu and wor­ried that Ted will spirit Linda away from the cozy setup they’ve cre­ated at the inn, where Jim can keep con­tact with his for­mer life.

“He has his Broad­way friends come in from New York to Connecticut on the hol­i­days when they have their days off from per­form­ing,” ex­plains Trim­mer of his Jim Hardy al­ter-ego. “He has this idea to keep a lit­tle per­form­ing in his life. So he con­tin­ues these hol­i­day per­for­mances with all of his Broad­way friends and has the best of both worlds.”

Those per­form­ers are a tal­ented ensem­ble of 10 tack­ling a dozen songs by Irv­ing Ber­lin that cover a whole year’s worth of hol­i­days, not just the Christ­mas sea­son now upon us.

“These clas­sic shows are tried and true,” says Trim­mer. “To be able to do them and sing rec­og­niz­able songs and bring back nos­tal­gia for the au­di­ence is al­ways re­ward­ing.

“Even when the tune of White Christ­mas starts, you can hear some sighs in the au­di­ence. The fa­mil­iar­ity is al­ways fun to be able to per­form be­cause peo­ple al­ways have their own, in­di­vid­ual spe­cific mem­o­ries tied to each of these songs.”

Ten­sions arise be­tween Jim and Ted when Ted tries to lure Linda away from Connecticut to be­come his new dance part­ner in Hol­ly­wood. The two be­gin com­pet­ing for her af­fec­tions. Of course, there is a lively mu­si­cal num­ber for this as well. Trim­mer noted that the cast puts their own orig­i­nal spin on these clas­sic songs.

“I think our main au­di­ence is fa­mil­iar with all the clas­sic songs that are in­volved,” he says. “I think it’s just a dif­fer­ent way they’ve heard them be­fore, with a dif­fer­ent sto­ry­line so I re­ally think it’s for ev­ery­body.”

There are el­e­ments of com­edy fea­tured, par­tic­u­larly with brassy handy­woman Louise Badger played by Laura Caswell. Louise helps Jim fix up his farm­house, and has plenty of witty one-lin­ers to go along with it.

Be­hind the scenes is the ex­pe­ri­enced Michael Lichte­feld, who di­rected and chore­ographed the show. He has pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence on Broad­way, the Strat­ford Fes­ti­val, and past Dray­ton En­ter­tain­ment per­for­mances in­clud­ing White Christ­mas, Any­thing Goes and Thor­oughly Mod­ern Mil­lie.

“I’ve worked with him sev­eral times, and he’s a ge­nius,” says Trim­mer. “I think he’s made some great im­prove­ments on the show and made this a re­ally ex­cit­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for ev­ery­body.”

This is the third run for the cast, the ma­jor­ity of whom per­formed in MayJune at the Dray­ton Fes­ti­val The­atre and Septem­ber at the Huron Coun­try Play­house in Grand Bend. This time, their per­for­mance will be in Cam­bridge.

Since the ma­jor­ity of the cast is re­turn­ing mem­bers, Trim­mer noted that this makes re­hearsal a lit­tle bit eas­ier as they all have per­formed plenty of times be­fore. The cast re­hearses three days as a re­fresher, ver­sus the usual two weeks spent to learn an en­tirely new play.

“Me­moriz­ing the whole script with­out a ref­er­ence or some­one to work with at first is prob­a­bly the most dif­fi­cult part,” says Trim­mer. “Be­cause you don’t have a vi­sion of what it’s go­ing to be yet, so it’s re­ally just words on a page. When you put the move­ment and songs and ev­ery­thing to­gether, it kind of fits like a puz­zle.”

The Dray­ton En­ter­tain­ment pro­duc­tion of Hol­i­day Inn runs through De­cem­ber 20 at the Hamil­ton Fam­ily The­atre Tick­ets are $46, avail­able on­line at www. dray­to­nen­ter­tain­ment.com, in per­son at the box of­fice or by call­ing 519 621 8000.

[SUB­MIT­TED]

Zach Trim­mer’s Jim Hardy leads the cast in one of the many mu­si­cal num­bers in the Dray­ton En­ter­tain­ment pro­duc­tion of Hol­i­day Inn, which takes the au­di­ence through a year’s worth of hol­i­days set to a score by Irv­ing Ber­lin. At right, Trim­mer and Jayme Arm­strong (as Linda Ma­son) have a go at White Christ­mas, the hol­i­day stan­dard that first ap­peared in the 1942 film.

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