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Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn: Watch and Listen

Posted on: November 20th, 2016 by Rory McGregor

 

Roundabout proudly presents the Broadway premiere of Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn. In this American classic, Jim leaves show business in New York behind to set up his own farm house in Connecticut. All he wants is to settle down with his wife and enjoy the quiet life. However, she has other plans and stays in New York, leaving Jim in Connecticut all by himself. His luck soon changes when he meets Linda, a schoolteacher and talented ex-performer and together they turn the farmhouse into a spectacular inn with big performances to celebrate each holiday. Dazzling, warm and hilarious, Holiday Inn brings holiday cheer all year round. And what better way to be immersed into the world of the musical with our installment of Watch and Listen below!

In 1988, on Irving Berlin’s 100th Birthday, BBC Bristol & the A&E Network broadcast a fascinating documentary about the life of Berlin and his impact on American culture. Led by Tommy Tune, find out more about the history of what led Irving Berlin on the path to creating some of the most famous songs in history.

Also to celebrate Berlin’s 100th Birthday, there was a special concert at Carnegie Hall which was televised on May 27 1988. A spectacular video where you can see everyone from Frank Sinatra to Ray Charles and even Willie Nelson singing some of Berlin’s most famous tunes.

Irving Berlin, of course, was most famous as a composer but did you know he broke protocol and sung one of his own songs in the 1943 film This is the Army? This is the Army was a film directed by Michael Curtiz based on the wartime stage musical of the same name by Berlin. Berlin composed the 19 songs in the film and appeared on screen singing one of them. A brilliant composer, but what do you think about his singing abilities?

And, as a bonus, here is Berlin in a very rare television appearance showing off his special piano:

And what other way to round off this list than with a compilation of Irving Berlin’s songs? The Songbook of Irving Berlin catalogues famous songs from the show to some you may have never heard before. How many do you recognize?


Holiday Inn: The New Irving Berlin Musical is now playing at Studio 54. For more information and tickets, please visit our website.


Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Holiday Inn


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Lights, Camera, Holiday!

Posted on: October 29th, 2016 by Jason Jacobs

 

12 Sparkling Holiday Hits! 10 Bing Crosby Vocals! 6 Fred Astaire Dances! 2 Lovely Leading Ladies!

Thus hails the original trailer for Paramount’s 1942 film Holiday Inn. Opening just after America had entered World War II, Holiday Inn earned public adoration, critical acclaim, Academy Award® nominations, and record box office gross.

The original idea was hatched almost 10 years earlier. Following the success of the song “Easter Parade” in the 1933 Broadway revue As Thousands Cheer, Irving Berlin conceived a revue based on major holidays. Before it was produced, Berlin pitched the idea to film director Mark Sandrich, with whom he had worked on three Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers films (Top Hat, Follow the Fleet, and Carefree) for RKO. Sandrich had become one of Hollywood’s leading musical directors, and he thought it could be a vehicle for Bing Crosby. He worked with Berlin on a story about an inn that was only open on holidays, and Paramount signed on.

Berlin’s original concept to debunk the holiday spirit may have played for a sophisticated Broadway audience, but Hollywood was another story. With the studio, the casting of Crosby, and the larger cultural shift away from Depression-era cynicism into wartime patriotism, Holiday Inn transformed into a more sincere celebration of American holidays.

Song Hits from Holiday Inn. The album was released in 1942.

Song Hits from Holiday Inn. The album was released in 1942.

With Crosby and Fred Astaire onboard, one studio agent described the impressive creative team as: “solid as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—and I think (it) will be remembered just as long.” But the stars’ salaries were so high that the film could not afford any female stars—Rita Hayworth, Mary Martin, and Ginger Rogers had been under consideration—so the women’s roles went to relative unknowns Marjorie Reynolds and Virginia Dale.

In addition to “Easter Parade,” Berlin wrote a selection of new numbers for each of the major holidays: “Plenty to be Thankful For,” “Let’s Start the New Year Right,” “Be Careful, It’s My Heart.” He had already composed “White Christmas,” but the script went through numerous rewrites before assigning Crosby the song in its now iconic scene. A less beloved song is “Abraham,” performed for Lincoln’s birthday, as a minstrel number with the cast, band, and even the inn’s waiters in blackface. When aired on television, this scene is often cut, and there was never any consideration of including this song in the new Holiday Inn production.

The film was shot from November 1941 through January 1942 on the Russian River in Northern California. America’s entry to World War II influenced changes in the film, and likely contributed to its warm reception in August 1942. (See "A Holiday for a Country at War).
The film became one of the highest grossing musical films of its time in both the US and the UK. It received 3 Academy Award® nominations, and Berlin took home a Best Original Song Oscar for “White Christmas.” The studio album, “Song Hits From Holiday Inn,” was released in 1942. The movie is still adored by fans, and despite covering a full year of holidays, many people still regard it as a favorite Christmas film.

To see the original Holiday Inn trailer, click here.

CROSBY AND ASTAIRE

Bing Crosby was one of America’s most popular radio, film, and television stars from the 1930s through the 1950s. He rose to fame as a “crooner,” a new, relaxed singing style that coincided with the wide use of microphones, and appeared in his first feature, The Big Broadcast, in 1932. He began performing a comedy routine with Bob Hope in 1932, and in 1940 the duo made their first film, Road to Singapore. It was so successful that Crosby and Hope made 7 more “Road” films. By the time Holiday Inn was made, his box office draw was listed as #10 among all Hollywood actors.

Fred and Adele Astaire, 1921

Fred and Adele Astaire, 1921

Fred Astaire started dancing with his sister Adele in vaudeville, then moved to Broadway and finally to Hollywood. By 1941 he had made three successful films with Sandrich and Berlin. He was considered Hollywood’s preeminent—and most expensive— lead dance man. Paramount wanted to go with a lesser known star, but Sandrich held out for Astaire. Astaire had creative control over the dance numbers. In addition to his spectacular fireworks dance, the film is also noted for his "drunk dance," in which Marjorie Reynolds helps him to stay upright. Astaire also had control over the editing of his dance sequences. Once a dance started, the film could not cut away for dialogue or even a reaction shot from another character.

Crosby and Astaire teamed up again in 1946 for another Irving Berlin musical, Blue Skies. Then in 1954, Paramount tried to reunite them for White Christmas, a follow-up to Holiday Inn. Astaire wasn’t happy with the script and pulled out of the project, so Crosby was ultimately paired with Danny Kaye.

You can watch Astaire’s “drunk dance” from Holiday Inn here.

A HOLIDAY FOR A COUNTRY AT WAR

On December 7, 1941, less than a month after filming began for Holiday Inn, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and America entered World War II. The film’s creative team responded by expanding their Fourth of July segment. Berlin, a veteran of World War I, wrote “Song of Freedom” for Crosby, who was passionate about supporting the military. Some of the lyrics referenced President Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union address. The song was accompanied by a montage of patriotic images: factory workers, armed forces, and American leaders, unconnected to the characters or story. Then, in “Say it with Firecrackers,” Astaire tapped around small explosions on the floor, hurling firecrackers from his pocket. Although this scene is the most visible response to the war, the idea of “dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the one I used to know” took on a deeper meaning for the many American soldiers deployed abroad.

 

Holiday Inn, the New Irving Berlin Musical is now playing at Studio 54. Visit our website for tickets and more information.


Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Holiday Inn, Upstage


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INTERVIEW WITH ACTOR CORBIN BLEU

Posted on: October 20th, 2016 by Ted Sod

 

Corbin Bleu

Corbin Bleu

Ted Sod: Why did you choose to do the stage musical adaptation of Holiday Inn and the role of Ted Hanover?

Corbin Bleu: I have always been a fan of traditional musical theatre and Irving Berlin. When you think of Berlin’s music, it is really the foundation of American musical theatre. Holiday Inn is based on the movie musical that starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire… two legends of that genre. Fred Astaire has always been a big inspiration for me, and tap dancing has been a huge part of my life since I was two years old. So, for me, the opportunity to tap as well as to originate a role on Broadway made it easy to say, “Yes!” I’ve taken over roles on Broadway before, and I loved being part of those shows. I felt like they were exactly what I needed at the time. Those shows gave me the chance to understand a Broadway schedule and what it takes to be in a Broadway musical, which requires every ounce of your being. I am very excited to create the role of Ted from scratch at Roundabout. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

TS: How much preparation do you do for a role like this?

CB: When I first started delving into the character of Ted, I was studying the time period and basing my ideas off of the movie. When Gordon Greenberg, the director, and I started working together, he really wanted to break that down and strip that away. He wanted it to be less about the period and more modern. It was a little bit of a shock
at first. But when you see something through someone else’s eyes, it can be a great awakening. It makes so much sense to approach the work naturally and relate it to our time. That’s the thing with a lot of traditional musical theatre shows. People will go to them and it just doesn’t translate anymore, it doesn’t connect, and it can be very boring or it can feel contrived. Gordon is really trying to do this period musical differently. He is really trying to capture, stylistically, the music and dance of the time, but as far as the tone of the show, he really wants it to feel more contemporary.

Corbin Bleu and Bryce Pinkham

Corbin Bleu and Bryce Pinkham

TS: Can you talk a little bit about your process as an actor? What’s important to you?

CB: It depends on the project. With a show like this, I think that the dancing is going to be a very big part of the equation for me. Ted Hanover is very suave and debonair and full of himself. The ladies love him, and a lot of it has to do with his talent and his ability. So the dancing is a huge aspect of the process for me. I think that when you watch Fred Astaire, it’s mind-blowing. His dancing is so intricate and complicated, and yet he makes it look like it’s effortless. That ease comes with time. It really is just putting in hours, so I’m going to be working diligently with Denis Jones, the choreographer. I know he’s going to be pushing me, but my plan is to also push him. I really, really want to try and push the boundaries as far as I can with the dancing in this show. As far as character and the scene work is concerned, I really just want to pick Gordon’s brain and understand his vision because we all just need to be on the same page. You try as an actor to do your own homework and research, but a lot of the time you’ve prepped something that’s not necessarily what you needed. I think we have to ask ourselves: What’s entertaining? What touches people? It’s our job to tell a story that’s interesting and that people connect and relate to.

TS: A big part of the story is the relationship between Ted and Jim. Do you sense that they’re like brothers and that they’re somewhat competitive?

CB: I think that they’re very competitive, Ted probably even more so than Jim. Ted is about himself; he wants the limelight, he wants to be a star, he wants to be the best, and it comes from greed. With Jim, I think it’s something a bit deeper than that, and that’s why he ends up leaving the business. I’m really looking forward to working with Bryce Pinkham, who is playing Jim. I saw him in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and I thought he was fantastic, and just getting a chance to read with him during the audition process was exciting.

TS: What do you think the musical is about?

CB: I think it’s about how everybody approaches their life’s work differently. Yes, the backdrop is American holidays and the hotel, but I think the audience sees what being alive means to each one of the main characters. Holiday Inn encompasses the entertainment industry through the lens of the holidays we celebrate. It’s wonderful to be in a show that is about celebrating because we’re in a time right now where we could use it. There’s so much uncertainty and turmoil in the world, and sometimes just to be able to experience the joy of characters for a few hours on Broadway is a relief.

TS: What do you look for from a director, musical director and choreographer?

CB: What I love in a director, and I see it in Gordon, is someone who knows what they want. There’s a big difference between a director who knows what they want and is able to trust their actors to find it, and someone who just barks and doesn’t also understand how to communicate. Gordon—I think because of his background—knows how to communicate with his actors, and he has a vision. Denis, the choreographer, is someone who doesn’t just choreograph and teach, he really pays attention to the actors and story to find what can organically flow in the movement. And I think he wants to take the dancing up a notch and showcase it differently. As for the musical direction, I think that’s where our footing is in terms of remaining in the classical world. Irving Berlin’s music is hard to mess with. I know there are certain pieces that we’re speeding up tempo-wise and we’re giving them some zhoosh, but for the most part, the songs are classic and beloved by the audience.

Corbin Bleu and Megan Sikora

Corbin Bleu and Megan Sikora

TS: Where did you get your training? I read that you moved from Brooklyn, where you were born, to Los Angeles when you were about seven, is that true?

CB: Yes! Because I grew up in this industry, a lot of my teaching has been experiential. I was thrust into it at such a young age, and when I say thrust—I gravitated towards it. My father is an actor as well, and my mom used to do it. I have three younger sisters; none of them do it. They’re all interested in the medical field, but from the get-go, I was always drawn to it. I was blessed and lucky enough to be able to start so young. I worked off- Broadway when I was six.

TS: And did you have any schooling prior to Los Angeles, or was all of your schooling in Los Angeles?

CB: All of my schooling was in LA. The high school that I went to is a performing arts school called LACHSA, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. I didn’t go to college, although I was accepted into Stanford. I started working and having a degree of success early on, and I needed to continue to push forward, so a lot of my schooling has been on my own. I’ve always tried to keep myself as well-rounded as possible and extend my work through all facets of the arts. I’ve always done everything from theatre to film and television and music, and more recently, hosting.

TS: Was your father a role model for you as a performer?

CB: Yes, very much so. I still will go and run lines with him and take direction from him. From the beginning, he’s always been there.

TS: I’m curious if you have advice for a young person who thinks that they might want to do what you do.

CB: Know your intentions. It’s important to remember that every choice has a consequence, so you need to know your intentions—know why you’re doing it. If you’re doing it for fame and fortune, the times that that pans out are very few and far between. Do it because you know you can’t live without it and that when you’re performing, you’re happy. Never stay in one place; it’s important to break yourself down and rebuild yourself. You can’t get better if you don’t keep training. Give yourself time to change and grow.

Corbin Bleu

Corbin Bleu

TS: I think that’s great advice, Corbin. I have one last question for you: is there a question you wish I had asked about yourself or about Holiday Inn that I didn’t ask?

CB: I think you covered it. I’m actually about to get married.

TS: Wow! Congratulations.

CB: Thank you.

TS: You’re getting married before rehearsals start?

CB: It’s all happening at the exact same time.

TS: Who are you marrying?

CB: Sasha Clements, soon-to be Sasha Reivers. Bleu is my middle name and my professional name.

TS: Are you going to get to have a honeymoon?

CB: No. I mean it’s postponed at the moment. I feel terrible because of course I want us to go on a honeymoon. I’d love to have time for that, but, you know, she’s an actress as well, a phenomenal one actually, and she’s traveling today to film a movie. So we’re in this crazy business together. She’ll be coming to New York, and we’ll get a chance to spend some time with one another, but I am determined to go on a real honeymoon at some point.

 

Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical is now playing at Studio 54. Visit our website for tickets and more information. 


Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Holiday Inn, Upstage


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