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Friday, December 9, 2022
Shaw review: Must-see Holiday Inn a sumptuous feast

Mike Keenan

Special to The Lake Report

The Shaw Festival’s “Holiday Inn” emits lots of razzle, it radiates plenty of dazzle, and its popular Irving Berlin song-and-dance numbers leave one with a beaming smile. It’s Tim Carroll’s impeccable antidote to Scrooge’s winter bah-humbugs.

Music director Paul Sportelli, in his informative program notes, tells us about the remarkable Berlin. “Israel Beilin came from Russia to America with his family in 1893 at age five, escaping pogroms against Jews. In America, his first published song … spelled his name wrong on the sheet music, and he decided to stick with it. Irving Berlin, the quintessential American composer, was an immigrant.”

“Berlin’s compositional genius is abundantly clear: infectious rhythms combined with strong melodies that seem inevitable. His lyrical genius dazzles with its conversational simplicity.”

Thus we have infectious tunes such as “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” “The Little Things In Life,” “Blue Skies,” “Heat Wave,” “It’s A Lovely Day Today,” “Shaking The Blues Away,” “White Christmas,” and “Happy Holiday” from the first act and “You’re Easy To Dance With,” “Let’s Take An Old-Fashioned Walk,” “Cheek To Cheek,” “Easter Parade” and “Song Of Freedom” from the second.

In her program notes, director Kate Hennig explains, “Holiday Inn is a respite. At this seasonal time of year where the darkness is at its most dark and the light, which will inevitably begin to grow, is still hiding just around the corner, “Holiday Inn” has no neurotic reaction, no nastiness, no angst. This piece (originally the film) was an antidote to the Second World War. It provided reassurance for a society trying to return to, or to find anew, a sense of ease and comfort in the big, wild world that had suffered so much loss – so much collective pain – and was crippled by the fear of slipping back.”

Shaw’s bubbly production brought back memories of the 1942 film featuring the mellow crooner Bing Crosby and the smooth dancing Fred Astaire. Shaw replaces them with Kyle Blair cast as Jim with a soft, velvety voice, his smooth singing underlying an honest, innocent nature and fireball Kyle Golemba as Ted, a macho man dancing with remarkable energy on the huge Festival Theatre set.

The song-and-dance act of Jim Hardy, Ted Hanover and Lila Dixon (Kimberley Rampersad) are floundering in theatrical doldrums, and they split. Jim proposes to Lila and wants her to renounce show business to live on a Connecticut farm.

But Lila hits the road for six weeks with Ted. Jim meets the former farm owner, Linda Mason (Kristi Frank), who failed as an actress and is now the town’s school teacher. Aided by a rough-and-ready handywoman, Jenny L. Wright as Louise, Jim concocts a scheme to run an inn only on holidays with themed shows. Of course, romance complicates matters, and its machinations literally lead to a Hollywood ending.

Rampersad excels as the avaricious Lila. Her sultry rendition of “Heat Wave” adds to the sizzle, while Frank as Linda is the textbook hometown girl with great potential. Wright is hilarious and wows the audience with her “Shaking The Blues Away.” Jay Turvey adds comic relief as Danny, the archetypal Hollywood Jewish promoter.

The show features eye-catching, elaborate choreography by Allison Plamondon that reminds one of grandiose Hollywood musicals with stylish charm and elegance.

Designer Judith Bowden makes it all work with an amazing array of stunning costumes and footwear fashioned in unbelievable detail. Her lavish “Easter Parade” concoctions were a remarkable and glamorous fashion show.

Her sets featuring large painted backdrops and pastel colours complemented the gorgeous costumes, and Sportelli did Berlin proud with his sumptuous orchestra. In all, it was a sensuous feast!

“Holiday Inn” plays at the Festival Theatre to Dec. 22, and it’s a show that you really must see.