Wednesday, September 24, 2014


This month, we check in with Donna Lynn Hilton, Line Producer at Goodspeed Musicals, as they start rehearsals for the world premiere of Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn, based on the classic movie!

Happy holidays! Check into the tuneful world-premiere musical about a Connecticut farmhouse transformed into a jubilant nightspot—but only on holidays. From Valentine's Day to the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving to Christmas, expect a cornucopia of hit songs by Irving Berlin in a dance-dizzy romance based on the classic film that first starred Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby. Raise a glass of cheer to "Happy Holiday," "Easter Parade," "Be Careful, It's My Heart" and more of the world's greatest show tunes.

Who had the initial idea to turn Holiday Inn into a stage show and what was that impulse? 
Universal Stage Productions launched the initial process of turning the beloved film “Holiday Inn” into the stage musical Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn.  Universal has a thriving development arm led by Chris Herzberger.  Chris came out of the regional theatre in Chicago and values our place in the development of new work.  Under Chris's leadership, Universal is working with partners across the country on developing their catalogue and Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn will be one of the first to make it to full production.

What is Goodspeed's relationship with Universal pictures through this process?  
Universal and Chris Herzberger have been truly wonderful partners and colleagues throughout this process. Universal brought writers Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge on board to begin developing the adaptation of “Holiday Inn” in 2012.  Goodspeed has developed several projects with Gordon as either bookwriter or director (or both!) and he suggested to Chris that Goodspeed was a natural fit as the first home of Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn.  From our very first conversation at the NAMT conference in the fall of 2012, it was clear that Chris and I shared a love of this film and a vision for bringing it to life on the stage. Universal led the charge in the early stages of development working closely with the Irving Berlin Music Company, but Goodspeed's early commitment to producing the show on the Opera House stage in the fall of 2014 was a critical piece of the plan from Universal's perspective. Once the major players committed to the project, work moved very quickly. Chris and I have worked for about a year with Gordon and Chad to bring the script to the point where we are excited to begin rehearsal this week—in fact, I am writing this in the afterglow of the read-through on our first day of rehearsal.  Goodspeed suggested Sam Davis as vocal and dance arranger for the project and that has proven to be a brilliant choice—if we say so ourselves!  And we worked together with Universal to identify the remainder of the creative team.  Honestly, Goodspeed and Universal have been on the same page about this project at every turn.

 Why does Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn fit well with Goodspeed and the Opera House audience?  

Festival Show Update: MY HEART IS THE DRUM

This month, we check in on 2013 Festival show My Heart is The Drum and its authors Stacey Luftig, Phillip Palmer and Jennie Redling on their recent reading at NAMT Member The Village Theatre in Issaquah, WA and their upcoming production at NAMT Member Kent State University.

My Heart Is the Drum is a big musical set in West Africa with a driving, African-influenced score. It is about Efua Kuti, a 16-year-old girl who aches to leave behind her stifling, poverty-struck village to become a teacher, and Edward Adu, a traditional farmhand who is in love with her. Inspired by the spirit of her grandmother, Efua runs away to the city of Accra to attend the university, but on arrival gets abducted into prostitution. Edward sets out to find her. Efua has always been able to draw on her cunning to solve her problems, but will she escape these most desperate circumstances? And if Edward finds her, will he still love her now that she has been “disgraced?” At its core, the musical is about finding the inner strength to achieve your goals and create social change.​
What was feedback like for your show after you presented in our Festival?
Mainly, people told us they wanted to know what will happen to Efua, our heroine, in Act II. We took that as a good sign.

You had the opportunity to bring the show to Goodspeed’s Johnny Mercer Writers Colony this winter.  What did you work on during that time in snowy Connecticut? 
First, we went through the script and pinpointed the scenes, lyrics and music that we had always labelled "good enough for now" and that we'd fix "later." Our time at Goodspeed was our "later."
We also focused on two pivotal moments for Efua, one in Act I, one in Act II. We all feel very passionately about her, and it took several passes—including one serious crash and burn—before we found the monologue in Act I, and the completely unexpected song in Act II, that we all felt to be "effortlessly" right.

This month at Village Theatre, you had your first ever reading of the full show.  What was it like to finally hear the whole show aloud in front of a public audience? 
Thrilling and gratifying.  After so many years since its start at the BMI workshop, we could see that we had a full, working show and one that moved people. The audience also responded strongly to the script's humor. For the songs, they not only clapped, but cheered for most of them and scene moments also drew applause.