Fauquier Community Theatre is celebrating their 45th Anniversary Season and, for the winter festivities, has opened Irving Berlin’s classic Holiday Inn, a musical based on the 1942 movie of the same title. Music and lyrics are by Berlin, and the book is by Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge.
The show features song and dance trio Jim Hardy, Ted Hanover, and Lila Dixon. Hardy wants to retire and settle down to start a family with Lila, but she does not want to stop performing. When Jim moves to a farm in Connecticut, he finds that stepping away from show business is not as easy as he had hoped. There he meets school teacher, and fellow former performer, Linda, who shows Jim that life and love are more of a balance than an either-or decision.
The set, built by Doug Barylski, is the inside of the farm home turned Inn, with a staircase leading up to a door to the bedrooms and landing where the live orchestra sits, led by conductor and trumpet player Jack Dusek.
The interior is quite realistic looking and well-constructed. But several scenes take place in front of a plain black backdrop or the main gray curtain, which took away from the feel of the show and could be helped by color splashes or festive decorations somewhere on the stage.
The trio opens the show with “Steppin’ Out With My Baby/I’ll Capture Your Heart” as the group acts out Jim and Ted alternately trying to win over Lila with their talents — a recurring theme that ends up being more than a gimmick for the act.
Kyle Wright plays leading man Jim Hardy, a part originated by Bing Crosby. Wright has a gorgeous voice that is suited perfectly for the style. His partner Ted Hanover is played by the slick Anthony D Williams. Williams is a triple threat and embodies the dancing sensation, originally played by Fred Astaire, with ease.
Wright’s Jim is slightly awkward and modest, which plays a nice contrast to Williams’ self-assured and suave Ted. And completing their trio is Melissa Pieja as Lila Dixon. Pieja is not as strong a dancer or singer, but her character acting of the selfish and somewhat shallow Lila is on point, and she gives off a confidence that establishes her place in the trio.
Kimberly Geipel plays the down-to-earth and optimistic Linda Mason. Having lost her family farm to the bank, she runs into the property’s new owner, Jim, when collecting items left behind. Geipel and Wright work well together and convincingly display the gradual development from friends to lovers naturally.
Jim and Linda sing the hopeful and upbeat “I’m Marching Along With Time” — commiserating on their changes in fortunes and finding resilience to keep moving forward — and Geipel’s and Wright’s voices blend beautifully. The two have many songs together, a favorite of mine being “Be Careful, It’s My Heart,” which showcases Wright’s crooner-like vibrato.
Geipel, who also served as choreographer, proves to be a triple threat in her own right in “Let’s Start the New Year Right” when a drunken Ted crashes the Inn’s opening New Year’s show. What starts as a stumbling collision of bodies gradually transforms into a fluid routine.
Former family farm caretaker Louise Badger (Dawn D. Gaynor) stays on with Jim to help him repair the farm, with room and board as payment. Gaynor is delightful as the witty and matter-of-fact Louise, so it is no surprise that Jim takes to her so quickly. Gaynor is the sometimes mother-hen, not-so-subtle matchmaker and constant comic relief of the show, hilariously illustrated in the fun number “Shaking the Blues Away.”
Also providing laughs is Marlee Catherine Ratcliff as Charlie Winslow, local youngster and deliverer of the many bank notices. Ratcliffe charms the audience with her dry, sarcastic delivery always entering and exiting the stage on a scooter.
Holiday Inn is packed with Irving Berlin’s well-known classics, like “Blue Skies,” “White Christmas,” and “Heat Wave.” Some standout numbers from the show are Geipel and Wright’s lovely duet, “Let’s Take an Old-Fashioned Walk,” which has such innocence as the two start their dating journey together.
Williams’ Ted sings “You’re Easy to Dance With” as he takes turns dancing with everyone to find his perfectly matched partner. This number is just pure fun. But “Let’s Say It With Firecrackers” is a showstopper, with Williams performing a fantastic tap sequence as he kills time waiting for his partner to show up.
Fauquier Community Theatre’s production of Holiday Inn is a nice tribute to the Christmas classic. The production ran into some of the usual opening night hiccups, with long transitions, and awkward scene changes. But these issues can easily be ironed out with efficiency. The show was performed well overall, and any shortcomings on the technical side were made up for by the impressive talent of the leading cast.
Running Time: Approximately two hours 45 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.
Holiday Inn runs through December 18, 2022, at Fauquier Community Theatre located at 4225 Aiken Drive, Warrenton, VA. Tickets ($22 adult, $20 senior, $18 student) are available for purchase online, at the door, or by calling the box office at 540-349-8760.
COVID Safety: Fauquier Community Theatre is following the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Health. As such, we will not have any seating or distancing restrictions. Face coverings are optional. If you feel sick or are displaying any symptoms of COVID-19, or have been exposed to someone sick, please do not attend. The theater’s complete COVID Procedures are here.
Cast: Jim Hardy: Kyle Wright, Ted Hanover: Anthony D Williams; Linda Mason: Kimberly Geipel; Lila Dixon: Melissa Pieja; Louise Badger: Dawn D. Gaynor; Danny: Larry Finkel; Charlie Winslow: Marlee Catherine Ratcliff; Brenda (Dancer/Quartet): Carina Stinson; Daphne (Dancer/Quartet): Emily Catherine Silva; Stanley (Dancer): Evan C. Kohnstam; Byron (Dancer): D’Andre E Stewart; Stella (Dancer/Quartet): Mindy Ratcliff; Jannie (Dancer/Quartet)/Lily Dixon u/s: Carleigh Hopkins; Susie Sawyer (Dancer): Christine R. Steinbrunner; Rose (Dancer): Melissa (BeBe) Navas Ruiz; Announcer: Rich Pinson; First Assistant Director/Ensemble: Katie Schlenker
Orchestra: Conductor/Trumpet: Jack Dusek; Piano: Dave Jaynes; Reed 1: Justin Baughman; Reed 2: Arlyn Nachtmann; Reed 3: Charles S Scaperotto; Trombone: Mary E. Porras; Drums: Jeff Briner
Production Crew: Director: Betsy Hansen; Producer: Diane King; Choreographer: Kimberly Geipel; Set Builder/Props: Doug Barylski; Lighting Designer: Sonia Bronder; Lighting Operator: Cameron Obando, Cole Clark, and Morgan Pepin; Customer: Sabrina Chandler and Claudia Tameris; Set Dresser/Props: Kelp Armstrong; Props: Pat Janell; Technical Director: Dan Martin; Stage Manager: Bekah G Perez; Assistant Stage Manager: Finn David Thomason; Stage Crew: Beth Rose Schick, Victoria D. Steele, and Meg Gupta; Music Director: Daniel Holmes; Rehearsal Accompanist: Tamara Hernandez; Photographers: Stephen Rummel Photography, Rachel Dodson, and Sonia Bronder; Graphic Designer: Rodrigo Pool