CEDAR FALLS – Based on the popular 1942 movie, the Cedar Falls Community Theatre musical production of Irving Berlin’s “Holiday Inn” will open on the Oster Regent Theatre stage Friday. Performances run through Dec. 15.
Liane Nichols has been looking forward to directing the musical since it hit Broadway in 2016. “When it’s being performed on Broadway, amateur theater companies can’t get the rights to do it. It closed in 2017, and we were able to get the rights and book it in,” she said.
“People have fond memories of the movie, and it’s interesting how many people have told me it’s one of their favorite Christmas movies that they watch every year.”
She also notes people often confuse “Holiday Inn” with “White Christmas” because they share the same great Irving Berlin song Bing Crosby made famous in 1942. The movie “White Christmas” was released in 1954, and the story and characters are different. The only other similarities are that both movies were about show business and starred Bing Crosby, Nichols said, and the setting used for “Holiday Inn” was refurbished and used in “White Christmas.”
Like the movie, the musical “Holiday Inn” is a tribute to American holiday celebrations showcasing Berlin’s “Easter Parade,” “Blue Skies,” “Steppin’ Out with My Baby,” “Heat Wave” and “Shaking the Blues Away.” Crosby’s song “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” for Valentine’s Day was the film’s original “big song,” but eventually was eclipsed by “White Christmas” on the Hit Parade. The Broadway show features several additional Berlin songs that weren’t in the “Holiday Inn” film version, Nichols said.
Jim (Gary Kroeger), Ted (Elijah White) and Lila (Christine Dornbusch) have a successful nightclub act as singers and hoofers, but Jim decides to shake the stardust off his feet and retire to a Connecticut farm. He asks Lila to marry him, but she’s reluctant to live the country life. The farm is rundown, and Jim isn’t good at farming. Louise (Jayda Baumhover) tries to help and together they decide to stage a big holiday party. At the same time, Jim is falling for Linda (Kristin Teig Torres), an aspiring singer-turned-schoolteacher. Then Ted arrives to further complicate his life.
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The 13-member cast also includes Bob Filippone, Ava Torres, Jessica Crouch, Fischer Deike, Ana Hanish, Kim Hanna, Sabrina Hayes and Dakota James.
“This is a really hardworking ensemble with such good chemistry,” said Nichols, adding some roles have been double-cast. “It’s actually a very complicated show to do with 30 scenes that require 30 shifts of venues which makes coordination vital.”
Nichols expressed her gratitude for the performers and crew members willing to commit to the holiday production and “go the extra mile. It’s a big show, and I’m not getting any younger, so that’s heartening. I think of shows as organic beings with their own life and growth, a work of art that comes alive with the people involved and the audience,” she explained.
Dornbusch is the show’s choreographer. Linda Sharp is vocal music director, and Leonard Upham is conducting the pit orchestra that includes percussion, bass, woodwinds and keyboards.
“I’m hoping audiences will enjoy this holiday show. It’s great entertainment, and I think they’ll find themselves singing these wonderful Berlin songs long after the show,” Nichols added.