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Center Stage: ‘Holiday Inn The Broadway Musical’ covers holidays year-round

By MARSHA WAGNER - | Dec 1, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Marsha Wagner

Now hear this! “Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn The Broadway Musical” playing on the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater’s main stage is not a Christmas show! This 2017 Broadway show is a live theater remake of the original 1942 Hollywood movie starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. The production celebrates composer Berlin’s timeless celebration of all of our traditional American holidays. The plot line is a means to an end celebrating these holidays.

For example: “Plenty to Be Thankful For” for Thanksgiving; “White Christmas” for Christmas; “Let Us Start the New Year Right” for New Year; “Easter Parade” for Easter; “Song of Freedom” for Fourth of July; and “Be Careful That’s My Heart” for Valentine’s Day. Well, you get the idea. And if celebrating traditional holidays weren’t enough, we also get to hear all kinds of additional Berlin hits, like “Shakin’ the Blues Away,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “Heatwave” and “Blue Skies.”

Like the movie, this story serves as a means to perform Berlin’s beloved hit tunes. Our plot begins when a Broadway song and dance man, Jim Hardy — wonderfully played by Caleb Schaaf — leaves the bright lights of Broadway and his razzle dazzle dance partner/girlfriend, Lila Dixon — performed by Broadway Palm favorite, scintillating Sami Doherty.

Jim wants to live a more quiet simple life, so he buys a farm in Connecticut. Once there Jim hires a female manager, Louise, to man the farm. Louise is a wise cracking no nonsense, bigger than life personality, played to comic perfection by Bonner Church. Of course, a romance blossoms once Jim meets former farm owner Linda Mason — Charis Michelle Gullage, a fine actress/singer/dancer. Gullage is in a word, flawless.

Meanwhile back at the farm, bills are piling up and our hero can’t seem to make a go of being a farmer to pay off his loan at the bank. What to do? Answer! In true Hollywood tradition, “Put on a show!” OK! But how? Answer: Open a hotel where the guests are invited during holidays and the appropriate holiday-themed show will be performed by the staff and neighbors. Hence the title, “Holiday Inn.”

But wait, this is Hollywood; our happy-go-lucky plot takes a “dramatic” turn when Lila suddenly appears on the scene along with her new current male dance partner, Ted Hanover — splendidly played and danced by Dwight Robinette — in order to spoil our hero’s romance with Linda.

I think you get the picture: the show, the story line, songs, dances, sets and costumes all serve to dish out a straightforward romantic story using glitz, glamor, songs and dances, in a true “Hollywood styled” musical!

I simply couldn’t end this review without mentioning some of the fine performances that make this show such a winner. First there is Victor Legaretta as Danny, a hard-working theatrical agent and manager. Legaretta proves the adage “there are no small parts,” not when given to a bigger than life funnyman like him. Way to go! Evan Barrero as Charlie Winslow is also a stand out, playing a postal delivery boy who always brings bad news.

Kudos to the eight dancers/singers of the chorus who make up the ensemble; all of them sparkle and shine like Christmas ornaments as they give it their all. They are Robert Ayala, Mathew Bautista, Kiersten Benzing, Amy Fenicle, Michael Corey, Hassel, Lily Kern, Renee Reid and Kyle Southern. Each of you created recognizable entertaining characters — bravo.

Once again high praise to director/choreography Amy Marie McCleary for pulling together a great Broadway/Hollywood styled musical that entertained us all and put the fun back into seeing a “live” stage show at the Broadway Palm; that is as good as anything we’d see on a Broadway stage!

Now that I’ve clued you all in on what a fine musical this is celebrating our all-American holidays created and composed by one of America’s greatest composers, here is an interesting foot note about Berlin. He was a Russian Jew and refugee/immigrant named Israel Baline who came to America to escape the Russian pogroms. Berlin came to the United States seeking freedom and spent the rest of his life writing music and songs of praise for this country. “Holiday Inn The Broadway Musical” is a fine example of that love of our country and a fine example of how we, as a nation, celebrate our traditional American holidays. Certainly an appropriate show during these trying times in the United States.

Thank you owner/producer Will Prather and all the wonderful staff, performers and musicians working for the Broadway Palm for reminding us that we are the United States of America and we can safely distanced celebrate that fact — by attending live theater and seeing a fine production of “Holiday Inn.”

So now, pull yourselves together, go to the phone and dial the box office at 239-278-4422 for a fun-filled Broadway/Hollywood-styled musical celebrating all of our holidays, while eating a delicious meal in safe socially-distanced surroundings! Remember when you phone to remind ’em, Marsha sent you!