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 May-June at the Drayton Festival Theatre in 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.