Holiday Inn, the 1942 film starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, is essential viewing every time the yuletide season rolls around. It’s certainly not the only movie featuring Der Bingle on my list, but is notable for the first appearance of White Christmas.
Beyond that monster hit, the film contains a dozen songs penned by Irving Berlin, including Easter Parade, Blue Skies and Cheek to Cheek, indicative of a storyline that covers a whole year’s worth of holidays, not just that rather notable one on December 25.
That’s why there’s nothing incongruous about Drayton Entertainment rolling out a stage version of Holiday Inn in the middle of May.
“It’s not just about Christmas,” says Alex Mustakas, Drayton’s artistic director. “It’s a parade of hits from Irving Berlin.”
As with the movie, Holiday tells the story of Jim Hardy, who decides to leave the tough slog of performing with partners Ted Hanover and Lila Dixon 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 life on a farm. 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, 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.
Along the way, there are plenty of spectacular singing and dancing numbers, which have made the jump to the stage version, says Mustakas.
“It’s the 1942 film in 3-D,” he laughs.
Plenty of music, big dance numbers and hundreds of costumes, not to mention the changing seasons and holidays, from New Year’s through Easter and Thanksgiving, means plenty of challenges in taking Holiday Inn from film to stage, he notes.
“I really challenged the people here with this one,” he said. “We’ve got a skilled creative team. They like the challenge.”
The logistics are particularly tough given that Holiday Inn will play at the intimate Drayton Festival Theatre before moving on to Grand Bend and then Cambridge.
“This is probably going to be the big musical for us this year, the big showcase of the year,” said Mustakas.
“It’s an old movie, but it’s a new musical – it was on Broadway just last year.”
The Drayton production is, in fact, the Canadian premiere of the stage musical.
“We are thrilled to be the first theatre company in Canada to produce Holiday Inn. It’s a brand new musical with spectacular dancing and terrific songs by Irving Berlin that spans all four seasons – spring, summer, fall and winter.”
Taking on Crosby’s Jim Hardy is Zach Trimmer, who was Jimmy in last season’s production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. He has played Danny in Grease among other notable roles at regional theatres across the U.S., as well as Hans in Frozen for Disney Cruise Lines.
Jayme Armstrong is the sweet, small-town schoolteacher Linda Mason, whose budding talent creates a rivalry for her affections. Armstrong is no stranger to Drayton Entertainment stages having appeared as Janet in The Drowsy Chaperone, Reno in Anything Goes, Betty in White Christmas and many other productions, including Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie opposite Trimmer.
Newcomer Zachary Scott Berger is the irrepressibly charming playboy Ted Hanover (The Astaire role in the film), Jim’s best friend and occasional foe. Hailing from New York, Berger has appeared in the U.S. National Tours of Jekyll & Hyde and Hello Dolly! and in numerous productions across the country including 42nd Street, Into The Woods, and Sting’s The Last Ship.
Alexandra Herzog makes her Drayton Entertainment debut as the vivacious starlet Lila Dixon, who is reluctant to give up the stage for a quieter life in the country with Jim. Herzog has spent many seasons at the Stratford Festival, playing Kristine in A Chorus Line and Liesl in The Sound of Music, among other roles. She also appeared on the popular Canadian TV series Bomb Girls.
Fresh off his comic turn as the witty butler Underling in The Drowsy Chaperone, Keith Savage takes on the role of wily agent Danny, while Laura Caswell is brassy handywoman, Louise Badger, who helps Jim fix up his farm – and a few other things.
The Drayton Entertainment production of Holiday Inn runs May 16 to June 3 at the Drayton Festival Theatre. Tickets are $46, available online at www.draytonentertainment.com, in person at the box office or by calling 519-638-5555 or toll free at 1-855-DRAYTON