TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE: This post is about a holiday outing on Wednesday, December 3rd to see the world premiere production of HOLIDAY INN being staged by Goodspeed Musicals, in East Haddam, CT. By August the initial run was already sold out but it’s being extended (which has not yet been publicly announced) and the MWC was first in line to get a sizeable block of seats for the matinee. Lunch beforehand will be at the historic Griswold Inn just down the river. Transportation will be by bus from NYC – but since the route is along the Connecticut turnpike, a stop is being planned to also pick up / drop off in Stamford, if requested. So, last year we went to Radio City for the Christmas Spectacular – this year the MWC will celebrate the holidays with a Connecticut Spectacular !
I’M DREAMING OF A WHITE CHRISTMAS was such a huge hit when it was released in 1942 that most people think the movie in which it was performed by Bing Crosby was named after it. But, not so, the movie was actually HOLIDAY INN. And while “White Christmas” is perhaps the best remembered Irving Berlin song from that movie, it’s teeming with others that are equally notable. “Be Careful, It’s My Heart,” “Happy Holiday” and “Easter Parade” are all there.
This all makes sense when you remember the original, if unlikely, premise of the movie. Two big-deal Manhattan celeb-song-and-dance men (Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire) decide to trade in the tawdry delights of the city for the simple life in the country. By opening an inn in Connecticut. But they only have the inn open on holidays when they mount elaborate stage productions using whatever the holiday is as a theme – Fourth of July, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s, you name it. Sounds a bit far-fetched, doesn’t it? Of course it does! But who cares – it made for some great scenery, great Irving Berlin music and no small amount of fantastic dancing from Mr. Astaire.
So, this very, very popular WW II-era movie is still in constant rotation on Turner Classic Movies and is pretty much its own channel around the holidays. But it is such a long-loved classic, that the wizards at Goodspeed Musicals have teamed up with Universal Stage Productions (the theatrical arm of the film company) to re-create the movie as a musical theater production. This rather creaky concept could be a little iffy – if it weren’t for the organizations and people behind it.
What’s all the fuss about? Mostly it’s about Goodspeed Musicals, a unique organization in American musical theater which for over 50 years, has been devoted to incubating this intrinsically American artform. This is not a place for road shows – they do everything themselves, from scratch. They have state-of-the-art production facilities including scenery shops, costume shops and a large costume storage and rental facility. They built, literally, a small cottage village to house the performers and workers and there are internships and writers’ residency programs. In this historic and relatively small theater (called an Opera house, although opera was never actually performed there) the productions tend towards … perfection. Many theatrical production organizations are eager to partner with Goodspeed to develop works because they know they will get to see their works as well as they can be produced.
Goodspeed Musicals has sent 19 productions to Broadway (including “Annie”) which have won a dozen Tony Awards. Goodspeed Musicals, the organization, has won two special Tonys: for outstanding contributions to American Musicals and another for outstanding achievement by a regional theater. This all seems obvious after you see one of their productions.
Architecture buffs like to go to Goodspeed to see the building itself – built in 1876 on the Eastern shore of the Connecticut River to offer cultured fare to the region. It is a vertical, quite odd, wedding cake bit of architectural Victoriana with the performance space up a flight of stairs (and the balcony up yet another) – meant to save these spaces in the event of a flood.
And as long as the MWC will be in the area, it makes sense to take in as much as possible – which would include the Griswold Inn for lunch in Essex, Ct. just down the river a bit. Because of its deep river port and easy access to Long Island Sound and the Atlantic, Essex has historically been connected to the shipping and fishing industries. Recreational boating (yachting !) continues as a mainstay of the town today which with its wealth of historic homes, classic country Main St. and the beauty of the Connecticut River Valley is a favored week-end spot for the East Coast yachting community. The Griswold Inn is the oldest continuously run tavern in the US – and was captured by British troops to be used as a base of operations during the War of 1812. The inn remains the centerpiece of Essex and is a great place for a festive and traditional New England pre-holiday lunch.
DETAILS: Wednesday, December 3rd from 9am-ish to approximately 5pm (return time in NYC). The cost for the day out will $177.50. per person and will include transportation to and from Manhattan, lunch at the GRISWOLD INN and your orchestra seat to HOLIDAY INN. Not included is wine with lunch (which can be ordered) or your contribution to our driver’s gratuity. The Reservation /Payment link is available in the “Members” section of the website. We were able to book a substantial number of seats so you are welcome to invite a guest.