Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge based their book on the same-titled 1942 movie that featured Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Veteran musical theater performer Jim (Ben Dibble) longs for a simple life sans show business and asks his longtime girlfriend Lila (Bonnie Kelly) to marry him and settle down on a farm in Connecticut. When his best friend Ted (Jacob Tischler) and their manager Danny (Fran Prisco, unfortunately underused) book a six-week tour, Lila jumps ship, and she and Ted turn their musical trio into a twosome.
Depressed and lonely, Jim retires to his farm, formerly owned by the family of small-town schoolteacher Linda (Cary Michele Miller), who sold it because it didn't pay the bills. To raise money, Jim returns to show biz, staging holiday-themed shows for New Yorkers on corresponding vacations.
With that plot, it's a little hard to believe that the film became the highest-grossing musical movie to date in 1942. But Irving Berlin studded the score with such standards as "White Christmas," which he wrote for the film, and half a dozen other hits.
Led by conductor John Daniels' versatile band, the Walnut's ensemble delivers potent renditions of "Blue Skies," "Happy Holiday," and the patriotic "Song of Freedom"; only the lackluster "Heat Wave" disappoints. Michelle Gaudette's tap choreography thrills on "Shaking the Blues Away," and Tischler dazzles, gliding across the stage during his dance solo. Charles Abbott's direction balances the big numbers with boisterous comedy, let by Mary Martello's sharp wit (as Jim's housekeeper, Louise).
Miller's voice enchants on multiple numbers, adding a heartfelt touch to the chorus' Broadway flash. She and Dibble deliver warmth in their duets, filling the storyline with innocent moments and simple pleasures.
But times have changed. It's hard not to wince at Dibble's tired performer who wants to mate-guard his girls away from the limelight. His boyish charm diminished, Dibble's unsympathetic portrayal drains the fun and energy enjoyed by the ensemble.
In an era when everyone longs for social media celebrity, Holiday Inn feels hokey. The show, while packed with theatrical highlights, harks back to a different age without any sense of reflection.