Sunday, December 3, 2017
Continuing my focus on the Christmas season before I fly to snowy Canada in a few days, the Public Broadcasting Service last week aired the Broadway musical, Holiday Inn. By clicking on that link you can watch the entire 2 hour 2 minute production. I was astonished, as on PBS you normally have ten minutes of fund raising too often. This one was like going to Broadway, as the curtain rose, there was a short intermission in the middle as a bathroom break, then the whole second half with curtain call. This is the complete Holiday Inn, which opened a year ago on Broadway. Go ahead, click on that link and add some Joy to your holiday season.
The show was a Roundabout Theatre Company production, a non-profit organization which produces shows at five venues in Manhattan. In many ways, this version was "better" than the original, with a slew of other Irvin Berlin classics like Shaking the Blues Away, Heat Wave, Blue Skies, Cheek to Cheek and It's a Lovely Day Today.
The first Holiday Inn was a 1942 musical with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, music by Irving Berlin. He wrote twelve songs for this film, including White Christmas, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Berlin also used Easter Parade, from his 1933 As Thousands Cheer. Somewhat confusing, but there was a 1954 film with the same basic story, White Christmas, starring Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen and Bing Crosby, where he again sang this song. Even more so, there is the 1948 movie Easter Parade, with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland.
How popular were these early films? From Rotten Tomatoes:
Holiday Inn 100 87
Easter Parade 90 86
White Christmas 77 88
Back to Holiday Inn, the Broadway show and movie followed similar scripts. On TV, if you let your imagination go wild, it was like younger Christopher Walken (Bryce Pinkham) and Drew Barrymore (Lora Lee Gayer) singing and dancing.
I should mention that this Broadway show was not an isolated event. PBS has been featuring them every Friday night beginning in October, and this weekend replayed Hamilton's America (the whole 1 hour 19 minutes):