How To Turn A Holiday Trifle Into A Broadway Musical

How do you turn a cinematic trifle into a big Broadway musical?

Holiday Inn, the 1942 film starring Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby, began as a vehicle for composer Irving Berlin to highlight a calendar's worth of evergreen songs, including "Easter Parade," "White Christmas," and "Happy Holidays."

But with six writers working on the screenplay – including playwright Elmer Rice – the script wasn't quite as sacrosanct as the music.

The plot follows two song-and-dance men named Jim and Ted. Lured by dreams of a rural life, Jim splits showbiz and buys a farm, but he soon discovers that he misses the performer's life. He turns the property into an inn that presents entertainment celebrating the major holidays, and soon enough, Ted is there to help. A beautiful woman named Linda also enters the picture, adding some romantic flair to the comic business.

Those basic elements are still part of the Broadway adaptation, which is now in previews at Studio 54, but don't expect a faithful recreation of the picture. The show may have been shepherded by Universal Stage Productions, which is the live theatre arm of NBCUniversal, but it's not being treated like a direct transfer of the movie.

As they developed the show, director Gordon Greenberg and seasoned TV writer Chad Hodge say they were given plenty of leeway. "We watched the movie two or three times to get the essence of the story, characters, and music," says Hodge. "And then we made it our own thing."

(That's partially why the musical is formally called Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical. The title emphasizes that this piece is distinct not only from other Berlin-based shows, but also from the movie.)