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Saturday, December 1, 2018

Review: ‘Holiday Inn’ pure Paper Mill Razzle Dazzle Delight

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The Paper Mill Playhouse in Milburn has been a major force in New Jersey professional theater for 80 years. It has won numerous awards with the the most prestigious the Regional Theatre Tony Award in 2016. The playhouse has been a home for many pre and post Broadway productions including the premiere 25th Anniversary tour of Les Misérables. The theater holds a very special place in my heart as the place that as a pre-teen I saw my very first live musical. The impact of that first production was such that Showboat is still my favorite after all these years. The subject matter of Jerome Kern’s masterpiece still packs an emotional wallop today.

NOW THE PLAY!: The original Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn film was a box office success in 1942 starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. It is best known for the introduction of White Christmas. The film received a 1943 Academy Award for Best Original Song (Irving Berlin for "White Christmas"), as well as Academy Award nominations for Best Score (Robert Emmett Dolan) and Best Original Story (Irving Berlin). A vastly revised version was produced in 1954 as White Christmas. It featured Crosby again, with Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney.

5Q8y_3DQThe Paper Mill’s absolutely smashing production is a perfect holiday entertainment. It has it all…. fabulous songs from Irving Berlin’s songbook nicely integrated into the story, attractive talented cast, dazzling dancing, fun lighthearted plot, beautiful costumes, impressive scenery, terrific orchestra. In other words, this is the first-rate Broadway level production we have come to expect from this New Jersey treasure. Please note that this is not your grandchild’s rock musical with sound reminiscent of a sonic boom, in other words a nostalgia delight.

Holiday Inn is laced with showstoppers such as Shaking the Blues Away, Blue Skies, Steppin’ Out With My Baby, and, of course, White Christmas.

l8PcljlgThe performers are marvelous… led by Nicholas Rodriguez (with the looks and voice of Gordon MacRae). His character Jim Hardy is tired of the tough uncertain theater life and buys a farm in rural Connecticut. His fiancé Lila Dixon, is played by the singing and dancing delight Paige Faure. Lila, however, is not ready to forego the thrill of the spotlight and leaves Jim for a tour with their partner, Ted Hanover. Jeff Kready is perfect as the over sexed Ted. Kready does it all, al la Fred Astaire, he sings, dances and acts (photo above right with Paige Faure). Meanwhile, Jim is learning how hard a life a farmer has. His one blessing is a live-in handy-lady Louise who keeps saving the day. Ann Harada is a comedy delight as Louis (photo above left with Rodriguez). Now, here she comes…the spunky, lovely daughter of the past owner, Linda Mason. Played, naturally, by the spunky, lovely, fine voiced, Hayley Podschun (Peter in the recent Paper Mill production of Peter Pan) How they get to the closing scene….a wedding…can only be revealed by a visit to the Playhouse. (photo below Hayley Podschun and Nicholas Rodriguez)

p49yma3gThe fine supporting players include: Young Jordan Gelber who has fun as Danny (boy banker/messenger); Jian Harrell spot-on as the agent Charlie Winslow who still lives with his mother ( Aidan Alberto is alternating in the role of Charlie Winslow.; and Juliane Godfrey as the silver tongued Las Vegas radio host. Others in the large cast are Jordon Beall, Gene Biscontini, Colin Bradbury, Tricia DeSario, Taylor Fields, Kelly Gleason, Berklea Going, Joshua Israel, Julie Kavanagh, Mallory Nolting, Clifton Samuels, JT Teeling, Karl Skylar Urban, Amy Van Norstrand, Scarlett Walker, Travis Ward-Osborne, and John T. Wolfe.

Principal creative credits: music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, and book by Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge. Directed by Mr. Greenberg, who is repeating his Broadway effort in 2016. Music direction by Playhouse veteran Shawn Gough. Denis Jones is the choreographer, also repeating his 2016 Broadway effort that earned him a Tony nomination..

The production team includes set design by Anna Louizos, costume design by Alejo Vietti, lighting design by Jeff Croiter, sound design by Matt Kraus, hair and wig design by Charles G. Lapointe.  The production stage manager is Victoria Navarro. Casting is by Telsey + Company, Laura Wade, CSA.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio November 29, 2018

Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn will be performed at the Paper Mill Playhouse eight times a week until December 30. Tickets may be purchased by calling 973.376.4343, at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, or online at www.PaperMill.org 973.379.3717. 

Photos by Jerry Dalia and Photo by Evan Zimmer for MurphyMade

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