BWW Review: HOLIDAY INN at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre
Dutch Apple's current production of Holiday Inn may just be what you are looking for if you are in the mood for a fun Christmas musical...or a fun Thanksgiving musical....or an Easter or Valentine's Day one. The show, based on the 1942 eponymous movie, is set at a Connecticut hotel that only has performances on holidays, since most of the NYC singers and hoofers are making a living on Broadway every other night of the year. It doesn't seem like the most viable business model, but just go with it!
Caleb Schaaf stars as Jim, a guy willing to hang up his tap shoes to pursue the simple life of a Connecticut farmer. Debts start growing, yet crops don't, so Jim resorts back to his roots in show business, turning his farm house into the Branson, Missouri of the 1940's. Schaaf shows a lot of spunk and handles his numbers with charm. His efforts to bring live theater to a small town remind me of Corky St. Claire from "Waiting for Guffman".
Brigitte Francis puts in a solid performance as Linda Mason, the former owner of the inn. Francis has a strong voice, yet comes across tenderly, when needed. Dwight Robinette stars as Jim's "frenemy", Ted. Ted is (yet another) entertainer and heart-breaker, who has his sights set on Jim's potential love interests. Bonner Church serves as comic relief in the role of Louise, the inn's maintenance woman and matchmaker. If they decide to remake this movie anytime soon, Melissa McCarthy would be a shoo-in for this role.
Despite the inclusion of some well-known and well-loved Irving Berlin numbers, the first act was not especially memorable. The plot took a while to get going, and the jokes were few and far between. However, the second act more than compensated with a lot of laughs, a quicker pace, and some fun dance numbers. The crazy, mixed-up tempo of the classic "Cheek to Cheek" was especially enjoyable.
J.P. Meyer led the five piece orchestra that was vibrant and jazzy. The 12 piece ensemble provided some welcomed depth to many of the numbers. Robert Kovach's set design of the inn was basic, yet effective. Most of the other locales were simply played in front of the curtain.
Holiday Inn is a catchy, tuneful way to end the year. The music of Irving Berlin plus the talents of this 23 member cast makes it a great compliment to your white Christmas and beyond. Tickets and more info can be found on the Dutch Apple website.