“Holiday Inn,” which is subtitled “The New Irving Berlin Musical” (never mind that Mr. Berlin died in 1989), is essentially a remake of a remake of a remake.
It is based on the 1942 holiday-themed movie musical of the same name, which starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and featured a dozen songs by Berlin including “White Christmas.” A decade later, “Holiday Inn” was redeveloped into the better-known film “White Christmas,” which also starred Crosby and had songs by Berlin.
A stage version of “White Christmas” played limited runs on Broadway in 2008 and 2009 and has since become a favorite of regional theaters looking to cash in on the holiday spirit. So it should come as no surprise that we’re now getting a stage version of “Holiday Inn,” thus bringing the remake cycle full circle.
“White Christmas” — no wait, I mean “Holiday Inn” — has a sentimental, old-fashioned plot where boy meets girl, loses girl, and finally wins girl while the gang puts on a show in the barn. It also sports a cozy post-World War II setting, lovely songs that have stood the test of time, decent performances from a likable cast (led by Bryce Pinkham and Corbin Bleu) and polished dance choreography.
But “Holiday Inn” only occasionally springs to life (usually when Bleu takes center stage and reveals his dashing presence and dancing abilities) and too often feels like another generic jukebox musical or holiday attraction. Its attempts to add comedy by mocking the innocence of the genre reek of desperation. It also lacks the production values and breezy feel of “White Christmas,” which really did succeed as pure entertainment.
Roundabout Theatre Company probably would have been better off producing yet another revival of a classic musical instead of “Holiday Inn.” Furthermore, isn’t it a little early for a holiday show? Couldn’t they have waited at least until Thanksgiving?