- OnStage New Jersey Columnist
It’s fair to say that there’s “nothing but blue skies” ahead in these next couple of years for the legacy of famous American songwriter, Irving Berlin. According to various reports from broadwayworld.com, the legendary icon of music for both theatre and film is set for some special treatment. One of Berlin’s most popular musical films, Holiday Inn, is confirmed to now be heading for Broadway next season starring Bryce Pinkham, Corbin Bleu, and Lora Lee Gayer amongst others. Previews are set for September 1st with an official opening scheduled for October 6th at Roundabout Theatre Company’s Studio 54 with classic songs by Berlin, choreography by Denis Jones, direction by Gordon Greenberg, and a book co-written by Greenberg and Chad Hodge .
The musical follows the story of a retired star from show-business, Jim (played by Bryce Pinkham), who decides to leave all the fanfare and lights to settle down for the quiet life at his farmhouse in Connecticut. He soon finds, however, that life just isn’t the same without the excitement of singing and dancing. Things then take an extraordinary turn when he meets Linda (played by Lora Lee Gayer), an energetic local schoolteacher with loads of her own talent to spare. Together the two transform the farmhouse into the “Holiday Inn”, where guests can come and stay and be part of the extravagant celebrations of all the holidays throughout the year from Thanksgiving to Christmas, to Easter, to the fourth of July. But when Jim’s best friend, Ted (played by Corbin Bleu), comes into the picture and tries to sway Linda to become his new dance partner in Hollywood, will Jim lose his possibly last chance in love?
In other developments, the life story and music of the famed songwriter is also looking to get its own treatment for a confirmed TV series by Max Lewkowicz and Dog Green Productions, while also serving as executive producer alongside Theodore Chapin, the current president and executive director of Rodgers and Hammerstein: An Imagem Company. The show, going by the working title of Irving, is set to be released with an hour long pilot in 2018.
“This is a remarkable story that stretches across sinews of American and world history throughout the 20th century,” Lewkowicz stated. “…[It] particularly resonates today with stories of immigrants and upheaval, war and peace, wealth and poverty and, through it all, man’s unbroken desire to produce great art for all of us.”
Born late in the 19th century in Tyumen, Russia and immigrating to New York City as a boy with his family to escape the region’s persecution of Jews, Berlin would go on to teach himself piano, never learning how to read music. He quickly grew into writing what would become a life-long catalog of about 1,500 songs for theatre and film that are to this day immaculate classics of the American songbook, which included, “God Bless America”, “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, “Cheek to Cheek”, “Blue Skies”, and, of course, the Academy Award winning “White Christmas” that was featured and performed by Bing Crosby as Jim in the film version of Holiday Inn. “White Christmas”, alone, became the highest-selling tune in history.
Chapin makes the point in saying that the developing TV show on Berlin “will depict a slice of American ambition, talent, humanity, struggle, and yes, luck. [He] lived at an extraordinary time in our history, and his story reflects the best of the American dream.”