Holiday Inn by Centre Stage
I should say from the off that I am usually more of a fan of modern musicals and that the more traditional style of shows really have to go some to hold my interest and Holiday Inn most definitely falls into the traditional catalogue. The show itself is where Irving Berlin’s song ‘White Christmas’ originated from and it tells of Jim Hardy, a performer who longs for the simple life. Unfortunately his fiance, Lila doesn’t agree and she is determined to make it in show business which means that Jim is left to his own devices to make his newly acquired farm work. Of course, along with his caretaker Louise they soon realise that the solution is show business (isn’t it always?). The star of the show is Linda Mason, the former owner of the farm turned school teacher, who Jim falls for. However Jim is soon left reliving his past when there is an offer that Linda will struggle to refuse.
Holiday Inn is huge in many ways; the number of dances, the sheer volume of costumes needed and the talent required to pull this show off. Luckily Centre Stage were not scared to really lean into it and embraced the challenge with open arms. The choreography by Vaughan Watts and Vanessa Forte was ambitious but brilliantly executed. The rapturous extended applause after the huge number, ‘Shaking The Blues Away’ spoke for itself and I have to say that I have never seen tap dancing combined with jumping rope, let alone executed so well. It wasn’t just the big numbers that were danced beautifully, Lila, played by Hannah Bryant and Ted played by Navin Nair danced wonderfully together with Bryant ever the show girl and Nair pulling off Fred Astaire’s fire cracker tap number, ‘Let’s Say It With Fire Crackers,’ commanding the stage by himself for a big dance solo.
It wasn’t just Bryant and Nair who shone in this show. Isabella Jackson played Linda and did so perfectly. Her tone was spot on for this role, combining an innocence with with star power, ensuring that I never once doubted that Hollywood would want her as soon as they saw her. Her and Joe McWilliam as Jim bounced off each other with a warm chemistry between them. Whilst Nair sang about fire crackers there was also a real life one on stage in the form of Corin Miller as Louise. She simply oozed personality on stage and this larger than life character became a real focal point whenever she was on stage, with energy radiating out of her.
Supporting these leads was a large ensemble and they were wonderfully expressive throwing themselves into their various characters. Often with shows of this size there can be members of the company who are not always engaged in the action but this couldn’t be further from the truth in Centre Stage’s production. When looking round the stage during ensemble numbers I was met with a range of brilliantly animated faces.
I would also be remiss not to mention the 16 piece orchestra lead by Dominic Veal and commend Centre Stage for being able to make this work financially (no easy feat in amateur dramatics). This really paid off as the rich sound of the orchestra really emanated the swelling sound of golden age musicals. Whilst at times the sound balance between the cast and orchestra was off, with the audience missing some of the casts lines this is a problem that is easily fixed.
The set for the show was kept simple but this worked for this production, it ensured a larger dance area and meant that the show progressed swiftly without needless scene changes. Changing costumes were instead used to depict passage of time and boy were there a lot of them! With a troupe of dancers needing to be costumed for each holiday performance this required several dance sets as well as period appropriate day dresses and coats I found myself looking forward to seeing what everyone would appear in next, the Easter Parade costumes being a real highlight.
I mentioned that the start of the review that the more traditional musicals really have to go some to hold my interest, well Centre Stage’;s production of Holiday Inn went some and more! I came out of this show grinning from ear to ear and both in awe of the talent in the society as well as glad that my introduction to this show had been such a polished and joyful one.
Holiday Inn is running until Saturday 18th November at the Bridewell Theatre. You can find out more on their website.