Delight In The Warm Nostalgia Of "Holiday Inn"
“Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy,” says hoofer Ted Hanover (care of Guillaume Apollinaire.) Watching Diamond Head Theatre’s production of Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn is a whole lotta just being happy.
With classic Berlin songs like “Happy Holidays”, “Blue Skies”, “Easter Parade”, “Cheek to Cheek”, and “White Christmas”,Holiday Inn will transport you to the 1940’s—with old-fashioned, sentimental warmth.
Based on the 1942 movie starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, this DHT stage production is perfectly cast and features powerful leads, and an amazingly entertaining ensemble. The dancing and choreography are spectacular, the singing delightful, and the costumes are gorgeous in this holiday romp which is a throwback to simpler times.
Zackary Linnert plays Jim Hardy, a crooner whose voice is as smooth as butter. Art definitely imitates life here, as Linnert has a great set of pipes, and he exudes strength and charm—reminding one of a better looking Sinatra. He’s the guy everyone wants to be friends with, and Linnert makes it look so easy. Playing the ‘good guy’ is always way more of a challenge than the villain, and Jim runs the risk of coming across as bland, but Linnert draws you in with his heartfelt acting, engaging good looks, beautiful voice and charming dancing. Particularly moving is his rendition of “Be Careful, It’s My Heart.”
Dance man Hanover is played by Kaimana Ramos, and his impressive dancing skills are constantly on display. Ramos is dashing, handsome, and absolutely drips with sensuality and charm. Playing the ladies man, he glides across the floor in ballroom dances, taps with firecrackers, and foxtrots his way into the hearts of all women. Ramos dances and sings with a twinkle in his eye, and the charm of a seasoned entertainer. He is mega talented, and mega delightful, and his tap solo during “Song of Freedom” is spectacular.
The stereotypical ditzy blond, Lila Dixon, is played by Rachele Rees. Rees explodes on stage as a sexy, vapid, fame hungry, and multi talented starlet who holds her own with the guys. She can sing, dance and act—and she has that New York show biz voice down to a T. Even as she schemes to make it in show business, Rees’ Lila is still compelling and appealing.
Linda Mason is the strong and spunky schoolteacher who gave up show business and NYC to help take care of her father and the family farm. Erin Wong is ethereal as Linda, with a lovely singing voice, sweet disposition, and graceful dancing. Wong is witty and intelligent, and the ultimate definition of a triple-threat talent.
Vanessa Manuel-Mazzullo is the wise-cracking handy woman Louise Badger, and she almost steals the entire show with her wit and zingers. Manuel-Mazullo has impecable comic timing, and a beautiful, powerhouse voice that commands the stage, and belies her adorable, diminutive stature. She can sing, she can dance (with buckets in her feet, even!) and she has the comedy chops to be the motor in this holiday boat, and keep it moving along.
Booking agent Danny is played by Christopher Obenchain, and while his stage time is limited, his presence is always funny, welcome, and great comic relief. Most of the show’s laughs are reserved for Obenchain or Manuel-Mazzullo, and deservedly so.
Rounding out the main characters is precocious bank errand boy Charle Winslow, played by Charlie Ho. This adorable 12-year old scoots his way from scene to scene on a scooter, and seems completely comfortable on stage.
By far, one of the most entertaining aspects of this production is the very talented and entertaining ensemble players. Consistently great, especially the ladies, these performers shine whenever on stage. Outstanding is “Shaking The Blues Away”, a tap-happy show stopper, which has dancers jumping rope as they tap dance. A big tip of the hat to the three young women who tapped and jumped with the long rope! “Blue Skies” and “You’re Easy To Dance With” are also spectacular ensemble numbers, full of energy and style.
Behind the scenes, Holiday Inn is blessed with intuitive and creative direction by John Rampage; dynamic and amazing choreography by Lisa Kimsey and Caryn Yee; beautiful and moving musical direction by Emmett Yoshioka; striking and impressive costuming by Karen G. Wolfe; eye-catching and era-appropriate wigs and make up by Linda Lockwood; and an ideal and visionary set by Willie Sabel.
Holiday Inn plays at Diamond Head Theatre until December 23, but grab your tickets while you can. This warm and fuzzy hug is selling out fast.
Written by EE Collins