BWW Review: HOLIDAY INN at The Merry – Go – Round Playhouse is a Festive Summer Treat

BWW Review: HOLIDAY INN at The Merry – Go – Round Playhouse is a Festive Summer Treat
The company of the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival's production of Holiday Inn. Photo by Ron Heerkens Jr.,

It looks like the Holidays have come early to Auburn's Merry - Go - Round Playhouse with their current production of Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn, delightfully directed by Richard J. Hinds. The heartwarming musical will compel you to tap your feet along to the upbeat tunes. It will put a smile on your face and have you longing for the holiday season (even if it is August).

The show is, of course, is based on the Universal Pictures film of the same name starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. The musical features music and lyrics of Irving Berlin and a book by Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge.

Like the film, the musical centers on Jim Hardy (Ben Mayne) who has recently decided to get out of show business. Jim has been a part of a popular three-person musical act in New York City; however, he is looking to have a simpler life with the love of his life. Jim has just proposed to Lila (Julie Kavanagh), who is also part of the musical act, and purchased a farm in Connecticut where they can make a new life for themselves away from show business. Unfortunately, Lila can't seem to give up the chance of fame and wealth so she goes to perform at just one more show while Jim goes to sign the papers for the farm Lila arrives to the farm later just to call off the engagement. Jim attempts to be a farmer, but that doesn't work out too well. Then his NYC friends arrive and the farm turns into the perfect Holiday theatrical getaway. With the help of his dancing friends, the farm's handywoman, and a possible new love interest/star, will Jim find his new simple life and escape show business or will show business take away his chance to live a simple and normal life?

What is there not to love about a musical like Holiday Inn that showcases many of Berlin's classic tunes, including "White Christmas?" Luckily, Merry - Go - Round Playhouse never disappoints with the classic shows and this one is no exception.

All the artistic elements come together beautifully. The live orchestra under the music direction of Corinne Aquilina expertly plays many of Irving Berlin's greatest hits. This production features some amazing tap dancing, intricately choreographed by Richard J. Hinds. Shoko Kambara's minimalist yet detailed scenic design enables the audience to get swept away into the romantic story. Jose Santiago's lighting has the right amount of warmth and the gorgeous costumes by Tiffany Howard and attentive wig and makeup design by Alfonso Annotto help brings the familiar characters to life.

The show showcases many incredibly talented and accomplished new and returning performers at the Merry - Go - Round Playhouse. It is always a treat to see some returning and familiar faces up on stage, but everyone is sensational.

Ben Mayne is ideal for the role of the now retired singer/performer Jim Hardy. His portrayal is humble and sweet and he's a definite standout thanks to his smooth vocals. He sings classic songs such as "Blue Skies" and "White Christmas" with such warmth and emotion. His rendition of "The Little Things in Life" and "Blue Skies" are definite highlights.

Benjamin Mapp is a delight as Ted Hanover, the third member of Jim's NYC act. His confidence and charm allow him to completely embodies the role. His dancing skills are incredibly impressive and steal the spotlight every time.

Julie Kavanagh plays Lila Dixon, Ted's ex-fiancé who chooses show business over marriage. This top-notch performer dazzles in the role, especially when she shows off her powerhouse vocals in numbers such as "Heat Wave," and "Plenty to be Thankful For." She is a standout comedic actress with over-the-top, but very character appropriate, facial expressions. Her dancing is impressive as well - she is definitely a triple threat.

As Linda Mason, Jennifer Evans has perfect chemistry with Ben Mayne. They effortlessly sing lovely duets such as "Let's Take an Old-Fashioned Walk" and "White Christmas." Her beautiful soprano vocals are breathtaking and her quiet confidence, perfect comedic timing, and elegance make her really beautiful performance quite memorable.

Kate Chapman steals the spotlight every moment she is on stage as Loise. Her exquisite voice soars effortlessly through the theatre as she shows off her Broadway belt. Her number "Shaking the Blues Away" was a definite favorite of mine. Every line and facial expression are hilarious and she has perfect stage presence. She is a truly talented performer.

Several other cast members stand out. As Charlie, twelve-year-old Brock Calabrese makes the most of his stage time and delivers every line with skill and charm. Jake Mills, is incredibly memorable in the role of Danny (the manager of Jim, Ted, and Lila's act) thanks to his comedic skill.

Holiday Inn has numerous potentially showstopping big, intricate tap dance numbers and luckily this production has a stellar ensemble that's up to the task of delivering them. The skilled, charming, and energetic ensemble is one of the reasons the production is a perfect Festive Summer time treat.

Holiday Inn is a must-see at the Merry - Go - Round Playhouse for those looking for a perfect carefree musical. Think of this production as an early Christmas present. Christmas came early in Auburn and I am sure glad it did even if it feels like a heat wave outside.

Running time: Approximately two hours and twenty minutes with one fifteen-minute intermission.

Holiday Inn runs through August 22, 2018 at The Merry - Go -Round Playhouse in Auburn, New York as part of the 2018 season of the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival. For tickets and information on this production and upcoming productions, click here.

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From This Author Natasha Ashley

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