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HOLIDAY INN & WHITE CHRISTMAS: A Look Inside Irving Berlin's Calendar-Spanning Classics

In 1935, on the set of the movie musical, Top Hat, composer Irving Berlin hummed a then unfamiliar tune to the film's star, Fred Astaire. He had envisioned the song as a centerpiece for a future film starring Astaire and his dance partner, Ginger Rogers. At the time, Berlin was in the midst of a project writing songs for each of the major holidays of the year, but based on his Jewish upbringing, the composer found that Christmas was the most difficult holiday to write for. Nevertheless, the legendary composer rose to the challenge and gave us what is now one of the most popular holiday songs in history, "White Christmas."

Though film director, Mark Sandrich ultimately passed on the song for Astaire and Rogers, Astaire ultimately agreed to star in one of two movie musicals that would include the song. Featuring another star of Hollywood's Golden Age, Bing Crosby, the films were 'Holiday Inn' and 'White Christmas.' In the decades that followed, both films have taken their place in the classic film canon and Crosby's crooned rendition of the song has been named one of the best selling singles of all-time.

In recent years, however, the two titles have found new life on the stage, the latter having been adapted as a holiday treat for theatregoers, and the former making its Broadway debut this season. Since much confusion surrounding the relation of these two titles exists, BroadwayWorld has delved into holiday Hollywood history to bring you the facts behind these two musical theatre classics and their modern day Broadway counterparts.

The first line that can be drawn between the two holiday-infused shows exists within the plot of each. Though both shows feature a storyline that centers on an inn, the main difference lies within the action that takes place within its walls. Where fans of 'White Christmas' look to the title for a warm, fuzzy Christmas-centric experience, audiences at 'Holiday Inn' can expect a whimsical homage to a few more of their favorite holidays.

In "White Christmas" a song-and-dance duo team up with a sister act to stage a Christmas spectacular at a Vermont inn. "Holiday Inn", however, centers on Jim, a man who has left show business behind to settle down on his farmhouse in Connecticut. Looking to shake things up with a bit of song and dance, Jim meets Linda, a talented school teacher. Together they turn The Farmhouse into a fabulous inn with dazzling performances to celebrate every holiday, from Thanksgiving to the Fourth of July.

In terms of music, both stage versions of the show feature a full Irving Berlin score, including the popular yuletide classic, 'White Christmas'. But outside of the presence of the Christmas crooner, the scores for the shows could not be more different. Where 'White Christmas highlighted Berlin favorites like, 'I Love A Piano' and 'I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm', the stage adaptation of 'Holiday' has opted for a number of other Irving Berlin favorites, including 'Easter Parade', 'Steppin' Out With My Baby', 'Heatwave', and 'Cheek to Cheek.'

Though the titles do share undeniable similarities, history tells us that those similarities were entirely by design. Riding high on the reception of 'Holiday Inn' Paramount hoped to repeat their success with 'White Christmas' and considered it a loose remake of the earlier film. In fact, the studio opted to use the exact same farmhouse in both pictures. But barring any similarities that may exist on film, the minds behind the Broadway adaptations of these stories have entirely different experiences in mind and have re-imagined both properties for modern audiences. And no matter how similar or different, both shows retain unforgettable characters, classic Irving Berlin songs, and enough nostalgic warmth to charm any audience, whether you're celebrating Christmas or every holiday in the calendar.

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From This Author - A.A. Cristi

A.A. Cristi is a graduate of the College of Staten Island with a degree in Communications/Journalism. She has performed both onstage and behind the scenes with La MaMa Experimental Theater Clu... (read more about this author)

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