A stellar cast. A talented ensemble. An outstanding orchestra.
There are holiday treats for your senses awaiting you on the Mainstage of the Cumberland County Playhouse. Plan to visit the “Holiday Inn,” and celebrate holidays throughout the year.
Entering the theater, one is struck by the uniquely designed drop curtain. Highlighted on it are Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and July 4th, among other annual holidays.
The curtain is an important aspect of the set designed by Curtis Phillips. Its rise and fall serves to highlight the celebrations of the 10 scenes in Act I and the 11 scenes in Act II.
The first scene begins on the stage of the Cat’s Meow Nightclub. It is August 1946. Britt Hancock as Jim, Chris Hallowes is his best friend Ted, and the heart-throb of both, Lila Dixon, played by talented singer and dancer Hannah Hays, join their voices with the ensemble “Steppin’ Out With My Baby” and “I’ll Capture Your Heart.”
Telling Lila of his plans to leave the traditional world of showbiz, Britt Hancock sings “It’s the Little Things in Life.” Attempting to sell Lila on farm life in Connecticut, he sings “Blue Skies.”
The ensemble appears in Midville, CT. Jim has purchased the historic Mason House. Certain this was a financial bargain, he is unaware of the problems and potential of this huge piece of property and the house itself. What will he do with it?
The multi-talented Weslie Webster comes with the house, it seems. As Louise, she is the caretaker. (Perhaps we should say, caretaker of the place and the owner.) Whether in work clothes at the top of a ladder, hoeing the Äúgarden‚ Äù in which nothing has ever grown, or casually but skillfully introducing lonely neighbors to one another, Louise is in charge.
When a wedding is to be celebrated, Louise appears garbed to be the officiant. Webster sings “It’s A Lovely Day Today” with Hancock and Hays. It was a joy to hear Webster sing “Shaking the Blues Away” with the ensemble at the Farmhouse.
Affirming the change that comes to all our lives, “Marching Along with Time,” we meet neighbor and former Mason Farmhouse property owner, Linda Mason, now a teacher in the local schools. Heather McCall plays her as lonely, rather straight-laced, committed to her chosen role of teaching. McCall, Hancock and Hays, looking at the barn on the Mason place, sing “It’s A Lovely Day Today.” McCall frees her character to develop during the show.
Jason Ross plays Danny, as one whose profession makes him ever capable of changing the direction of people’s lives. He is trying to keep the professional show business on track despite the emotional involvements of some of the actors. They need to be in New York City or in Los Angeles. Can he pry them away from this New England farmhouse?
A knock on the door, indicating some sort of message requires immediate delivery and attention, often comes at inconvenient moments. The messenger, Charlie Winslow is played by sixth-grader Kyra Crosby, seventh-grader Luke Smith and fourth-grader Kendall Walker alternating in this hilarious role.
Can the farmhouse really be the site of the action of “Holiday Inn?” After a lonely Thanksgiving, Linda (McCall) muses in song about when “There is Nothing More to Say.” By New Year’s Eve 1946, it looks as though entertaining in Connecticut will work out. “Holiday Inn/Happy Holiday” and “Let’s Start the New Year Right” spotlight Jim, Louise and Linda and the ensemble.
The ensemble of Daniel Black, Joey Boos, Cory Clark, Jensen Crain-Foster, Jess Griffin, Ross Griffin, Rachel Lawrence, Lauren Marshall, Fiona Mowbray, Charlie Munday, Michael Ruff, Caitllin Schaub, Larren Woodward and Grayson Yockey is central to the action. Amazing dance routines created by Leila Jones are performed with impeccable skill.
The presence of a live orchestra is an important aspect of productions at the Cumberland County Playhouse. As the show began, the overture burst forth from the nine-piece pit orchestra with a medley of songs celebrating holidays.
Musical director Ron Murphy and David Garrison have programmed the keyboards. Woodwinds are played by Phil Barham and Jordan Morack. Brass players are Wayne Robbins, Andy Neilson, Jeff White and Tony Greco. The percussionist is Chet Hayes.
“Holiday Inn” offers a special feast for the eyes: Two hundred sixty-three costumes in fabulous fabrics have been created.
Andy Wallach and a staff of creative fabric artists have made costumes to highlight each holiday: Easter, with fantastic hats for the parade; and Independence Day, where Jim, Ted, Linda and the Ensemble not only sing a “Song of Freedom” but “Say it With Firecrackers.”
The costumes are beautiful, the fabric elegant, the actors talented, the dancers amazing, the voices are varied and often haunting.
Webster’s skills seem to be ever expanding. She astounded us in the role of Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. Louise showcases her in an entirely different way.
Hancock seems to have found new depth of emotion to express along with his marvelous voice.
McDonald has had a vision: He has directed a remarkable show. The music, the work of the ensemble and the cast combine to help the audience look ahead to Happy Holidays.
“Holiday Inn,” sponsored by Cumberland Eye Care, M. Stewart Galloway and Janis Holt, plays through Dec. 22. It is rated G, to be enjoyed by all ages. Call 931-484-5000 to order your tickets and add joy to your holidays, whatever the time of year.