REVIEW: "Holiday Inn" — Musical Theatre West, Carpenter Performing Arts Center

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

“Shaking the Christmas Blues Away at Holiday Inn…”

Musical Theatre West, Southern California’s Premier Musical Theatre Company, in association with Paul Garman, Executive Director/Producer, presents "Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn,” a toe-twinkling, ivory tickling musical, co-written and revitalized with a modern sensibility by the team of Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge. Now playing to sell-out crowds at Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center through December 15th, there are only six more performances remaining in this tour-de-force show of the Christmas season.

Directed by Danny Pelzig, with Musical Direction by Dennis Castellano and Choreography by Christine Negherbon, this country mouse/city mouse holiday romance is inspired by the classic 1942 Universal picture of the same name. Two erstwhile song and dance partners, Jim Hardy (Cameron Bond, Broadway: “Be More Chill,” “Finding Neverland”) and his fiancée Lila Dixon (Jennifer Knox, MTW: “Something Rotten,” Nat’l Tour: “Cats”) are about to ditch show business and settle into country life on a Connecticut farm that Jim purchased at auction. At least that’s the plan for one of them.

Jim is eager and ready to give up the footlights of Flatbush for the dimmer bulbs of rural farm life, but Lila is less convinced. She is easily led off on a road tour with the third member of the trio act, Jim’s old buddy Ted Hanover (Jeffrey Scott Parsons, MTW: “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” “Catch Me if you Can”), who convinces her to delay her wedding.

As Jim licks his wounds and slouches off to Connecticut, he loses Lila to Ted, who has a habit of stealing away Jim’s girlfriends,

but his luck takes a turn when the former owner of his farm drops by to pick up a few things — a performer with talent to spare who’s turned country schoolteacher: triple-threat Linda Mason (Natalie Storrs, Nat’l Tour: “Sister Act,” Off-Broadway: “Red Roses, Green Gold”). Because life just isn’t the same without a bit of song and dance.

Once ensconced in his new life, Jim finds that his new home is actually a money pit, and struggles to keep afloat, despite the maternal ministrations of live-in handywoman, Louise (Liz Eldridge, “The Death of Madea,” “The Society Now: Babylon”), who knows her way around a hoe and also sprays the stage with Rose Marie-type wisecracks on a par with the old Dick Van Dyke show. Ms. Eldridge, a remarkable character actor, magnificently channels Marjorie Main perfectly in her role, from the maid in “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944).

Also given a series of rather canned gags is a licorice-chewing messenger boy from the bank named Charlie, played with deadpan spunk by David Landis, who implausibly keeps serving Jim with bank papers signaling his increasingly dire financial straits.

The next thing you know, the struggling farmhouse is descended upon by Jim’s old showbiz buddies, a loyal troupe of dancers and singers who are all more than happ