This complicated love story touches several holidays — not just Christmas

Seventy-four years may have passed between the film version of Holiday Inn and the Broadway musical, but timeless themes of love triangles, ambition and career decisions are as relevant as ever. Now playing at The Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown, Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn may contain the classic song “White Christmas,” but it’s not entirely a Christmas show. It’s focused on a group of performers trying to find their perfect partner while attempting to move up the show business ladder.

The show begins when disillusioned Jim (Ben Griffin) decides to quit show business to live on a farm in Connecticut. He hopes his new fiancée, Lila (Susanna Ballenski Houdesheldt) will follow him, but she stays behind to try her hand at stardom for one last tour with Jim’s best friend, Ted (Cole Emarine.) No problem there, right?

As Jim moves into his new home on the farm, he meets his neighbor and the former owner of the farm, Linda (Sara Kowalski) along with the hilarious Louise (Annie Dwyer) who introduces herself as the “handyman,” and is most definitely a fixer. When Jim falls behind on payments for the farm, he and Louise come up with the idea to turn the farm into an inn that hosts holiday shows, not just Christmas, but all the holidays — New Year’s Eve and Easter and Independence Day, too.

It’s not long before Jim finds out that, along with being beautiful and quirky, Linda is also quite a talented singer and dancer. Together the two play the leads in all of the holiday shows, and — surprise — they fall in love.

But when Ted gets wind of their success, he returns to find his next new dance partner and another love triangle ensues.

This show includes classics like “Blue Skies,” “Cheek to Cheek” and “White Christmas” — beautifully performed by Linda and Jim as their voices blend magically together. Each song is coupled with lovely choreography by the director, Kate Vallee and performed by the leads and the ensemble cast. Candlelight’s full orchestra adds plenty of depth to each of the performances.

Sara Kowalski and Ben Griffin
All photos: RDG Photography

More holidays

As the story moves through the different holidays, the cast changes in and out of several holiday themed costumes, from pastel Easter dresses to red, white and blue attire for Independence Day.

With set design by Casey Kearns, the scenery seamlessly changes from a glamorous Broadway stage to a farm house, to another stage for the holiday shows. The ensemble cast give the musical the feel of a real Broadway show as they effortlessly dance and sing through most every scene.

Cole Emarine

Kowalski and Griffin seem made for these roles and their chemistry on stage is palpable. They play very well off one another and their voices complement each other wonderfully.

Another standout is Dwyer as the comic hero who stays true to her role as the “handyman” working behind the scenes to ensure Linda and Jim end up together. Her scene when Ted wakes up hungover in Louise’s bed is laugh-out-loud funny.

This show is a true treat for the holiday season sure to delight everyone young and old. As a story new to me, I appreciated a little something different than the regular Christmas stories. It was great to hear some holiday classics (and maybe sing along), laugh at the antics between Louise and Ted, take in all the wonderfully choreographed dance numbers and admire the many elaborate costumes. And while this isn’t just a Christmas show, it’s still guaranteed to put you in the Christmas spirit.