Even if you don’t need to be whisked away from today’s turmoil by a heartwarming story from a simpler time, even if you don’t need to replace the sometime-drone of contemporary music with the unique melodies of a golden-age musical theater composer like Irving Berlin, you do need to see the dancing in Marriott Theatre’s “Holiday Inn.”
Based on the 1942 film from Paramount Pictures, the show was given new life when it premiered at Goodspeed Opera House in 2014 with the unfortunate minstrel number deleted and even more Irving Berlin packed in. The show went from there to the MUNY and then to Broadway. Its choreographer Denis Jones was nominated for the 2017 Tony Award. Jones directs and choreographs Marriott’s production, which manages to wrap the audience in the warm glow of nostalgia while jolting them into a frenzy with the finest hoofing seen in Chicago in the last thirty years. The choreography and dancing at Marriott is so consistently excellent, its quality is a given. With “Holiday Inn,” Marriott bests itself.
Michael Mahler is a gift as songwriter-performer-would-be farmer Jim Hardy. The award-winning composer-lyricist sings with a clarion tenor that is just right for Berlin’s stylings, dances with flair, and alternately tickles the ivories and beats them into submission. His chemistry with Johanna McKenzie Miller is believable, as they progress from careful interest in each other to the friends-in-love relationship, which so often stays the course. McKenzie Miller knows how to put over a lyric and her lilting soprano voice charms. It’s a sad moment when her solos end. Will Burton was in the Broadway production and his comfort level with Jones’ fantastically giddy, yet cut-diamond precise choreography is palpable. Tall, handsome and blessed with an attractive singing voice, his work is a joy. Marya Grandy has been nominated twice for a Joseph Jefferson Award; send her name to the engraver because this is her year to win. She walks away with every moment she is onstage, no small feat when surrounded by all that world-class talent.
Any and all of that should have you rushing to get your ticket. But the biggest reason to see this show is the incredible ensemble of singer-dancers and dancer-singers. They deftly deliver the requisite tight harmonies of the period and (spoiler alert) tap dance while jumping rope. Make your reservation at “Holiday Inn” this very minute. (Aaron Hunt)
Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, (847)634-0200, marriotttheatre.com, $50-$60. Through January 6.