Like its 1942 movie inspiration, which starred Bing Crosby and popularized “White Christmas,” the stage version tells of Jim (Tristan Tapscott), who leaves behind the bright lights of show business to settle down on his Connecticut farmhouse only to find that life isn’t the same without song and dance.
Jim’s luck takes a spectacular turn when he meets Linda (Brooke Myers), a spirited schoolteacher with talent to spare. Together, they turn the farmhouse into a fabulous inn with dazzling performances to celebrate each holiday, from Thanksgiving to the Fourth of July, according to a Circa synopsis. But when Jim’s best friend, Ted, tries to lure Linda away to be his new dance partner in Hollywood, will Jim be able to salvage his latest chance at love?
The musical opened on Broadway in 2016 after premiering at the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut in 2014. Its parade of classic Berlin tunes includes “Blue Skies,” “Easter Parade,” “Steppin' Out With My Baby,” “Heat Wave,” “White Christmas,” “Be Careful, It's My Heart,” and “Cheek to Cheek.”
“This is a gigantic show, and the cast has beyond risen to the occasion for what the needs are for the show, and so has the design team,” said first-time Circa director/choreographer Shane Hall. “It's been a very collaborative effort.”
“To learn about new stages, there's always education and growth when you visit a new theater like this,” he said. “I feel like I'm gonna leave with a whole bunch of knowledge and experience in my bag. It's been great. It's been nonstop — I feel like I've been here for two months, but it's been nine days.”
“The process can be very stressful at times, but it's one of those things because it's such a quick turnaround, I learn so much about myself — as an actor, dancer, singer, performer and what works for me,” said Myers, who was last in “Newsies” early this year. She was in Circa's “Mamma Mia” last summer, and was here the rest of the year.
“It's like, if I can do it here, I can do it anywhere,” Myers said of the shows. “I don't know any other place that's gonna try to put up a show in less amount of time. That, for me, has been really great, and the people are just lovely. It's like coming back to a family.”
Tapscott certainly is part of the Circa family, celebrating “Holiday Inn” as his 50th production there, which started with “A Christmas Carol” in 2007. Also a veteran of Irving Berlin's “White Christmas” at Circa in 2014, he called “Holiday Inn” like “a little biopic about me.”
“I relate to Jim on more levels in the show than I probably should,” said Tapscott, who has a long list of directing, producing and acting credits in the area. “He's dealing with a lot of romantic issues. So, for me, it touches on a lot of things I deal with on a personal level. It's a very personal thing for me; that's been interesting to navigate. It's been cathartic.”
“I got back into theater last fall after a little time away,” he said. “I was born at the wrong time. I love this style of musical theater, and it's not something that's done a lot anymore. I just love that time period and those clothes.”
“It's great 'Holiday Inn' has become such a hit. Every theater is trying to grab the rights to do this show,” Hall said. Based in New York City, he owns and operates the 12-year-old Prodigy Dance Centre.
“I've done 'White Christmas,' (on stage three times), and I'm trying to decide which one I like more,” he said. “'Blue Skies' is in both productions, and it's one of my favorite pieces.”
The chestnut “White Christmas,” of course, is in both. In this one, it's a song Jim is working on writing. It's the big finale in “White Christmas,” and “Holiday Inn,” it comes toward the end of Act 1, a more intimate version, Hall said, and a reprise at the end. “It shows more vulnerability in this performance of it.”
“It's very small, super cute, romantic,” Tapscott said of that classic song. “I personally like 'Holiday Inn' more than 'White Christmas,' having done them both now. I think 'White Christmas' is great, but 'Holiday Inn' works better as a stage show actually in a lot of ways, than 'White Christmas' does.”
Berlin won the 1943 Academy Award for Best Original Song for “White Christmas.”
The holidays memorialized in the new show include New Year's, Valentine's Day, Easter, July 4th, and Thanksgiving. “The only one we're really missing is St. Paddy's Day,” Myers said. She earned her bachelor's in musical theater from the University of Central Missouri.
“This movie, in particular, was my Christmas movie,” she said. “I didn't watch 'White Christmas'; I watched 'Holiday Inn,' and so it's been really, really cool to bring it to life.”
“Linda is quirky. I really enjoy Linda. She starts out very introspective, quiet, demure and businesslike, and throughout the show, you get to know her more and her quirks come out,” she said of her role. “Jim helps her rekindle her love of performing.
“Her ideas of what she wants have changed and there's a huge, huge struggle for her. Her priorities just shift completely. It's kind of a love-versus-opportunity situation.”
“That's very realistic in life, not just theater,” Hall said. An Alabama native, Hall saw his first Broadway show at age 14, the dance-heavy “Cats,” and that became his dream to chase, to become a member of the company. He performed on the national tour of “Cats” (as Mr. Mistoffelees) in 2001-04.
Hall has been directing for only six years, and still performs as well.
“It's been nice to discover these shows and make them my own,” he said. “Holiday Inn” features a variety of dance numbers. "I know they're very grateful to have all these numbers to do,” he said of the cast.
They faced a challenge in losing the actress who was to play Louise, and left four days into rehearsals.
“That happens all the time; we got right on it,” Hall said. “We have a fantastic replacement, Morgan Dayley. Literally, no time was wasted; it feels like she's been with us since the beginning.”
“This role is right up her wheelhouse. She really adapted quickly,” he added. “I think Louise has the heart of the show. She's the busybody neighborhood lady, if you will. She grabbed right onto it.”
Some “Holiday Inn” actors get to wear costumes original to the 2016 Broadway production. Tapscott wears jackets from one of his idols, Bryce Pinkham, who originated the role of Jim, and also starred in “Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder” on Broadway.
That, with these holidays, and another local premiere under his belt, are cause for celebration. “It's kind of cool,” Tapscott said.