“Holiday Inn: The New Irving Berlin Musical,” an adaptation of the beloved 1942 film in which Bing Crosby introduced “White Christmas,” opened on the rialto recently. This tuner features that Oscar-winning song as well as others from the film as well as Berlin’s extensive catalogue of classics. Recent Tony nominee Bryce Pinkham (“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”) takes on Crosby’s role of Jim, a one-time vaudevillian who now runs an inn open only on holidays, while Corbin Bleu plays his one-time partner (Fred Astaire in the film) and Lora Lee Gayer (“Follies”) is Linda, the local schoolteacher caught in a love triangle with them.
Were critics won over by this stage adaptation of the beloved film?
Some reviewers fell in love with the musical’s old school Americana. Frank Rizzo (Variety) praised the show as a “first-class” musical and “the feel-good show of the fall” with “heart, a slightly modern sensibility and a joyful spirit.” Similarly, Jeremy Gerard (Deadline) hailed it as an “exuberant, shamelessly old-fashioned tap-and-tuner,” singling out Bleu, who he calls “the discovery” of the production, “tapping up a storm that recalls the young Sammy Davis Jr., technical brilliance and good time in one barely containable package.”
Other critics were not as kind. Jesse Green (Vulture) criticized the show for its “sloppiness” and “corniness,” exclaiming that audiences today “expect more of new musicals than hackneyed tributes to an earlier era’s status quo,” and deadpanning that the creative team has “turned Berlin gold into brass plate.” And Charles Isherwood (New York Times) expressed similar sentiments, acknowledging that the musical pulls off a Berlin revue well enough, but in an overall “perky but bland” manner, quipping that it comes off like “a prematurely hung Christmas stocking smelling faintly of mothballs.”
So, how will “Holiday Inn” fare at the Tony Awards?
Three of its talents could reap their first-ever Tony Awards nominations. All of the critics singled out choreographer Denis Jones (“Honeymoon in Vegas”) for his work, especially on the show-stopping numbers “Shaking the Blues Away” and “Let’s Say It With Firecrackers.” Costume designer Alejo Vietti (“Allegiance,” “Beautiful”) could be cited for the sheer number of inventive holiday outfits. And Bleu could potentially land a nomination for Best Featured Actor. Although he has appeared on Broadway as a replacement cast member in the past, “Holiday Inn” marks his his first time originating a role and, therefore, his first opportunity to be nominated for a Tony.
Beyond that, “Holiday Inn” faces challenges in this, a fairly competitive year for new musicals. Among those tuners still to come are the innovative “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812” and “Dear Evan Hansen” as well as film-to-stage adaptations of “Groundhog Day,” “A Bronx Tale” and “Anastasia.”