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?

Anyone who has attended a performance at the Goodspeed Opera House understands that we are a perfect fit for Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn.   Our creative staff and our audiences have a love and appreciation for musical comedy loaded with dance.  It’s what we cut our teeth on, so committing to this project was truly a “no-brainer” for us.  And our audiences responded immediately to tell us we’d made a choice of which they approved (translation: get your tickets soon!)

You have a produced a couple readings of the piece prior to presenting it.  What has changed as the show has evolved from the screenplay to the stage musical?
Although many elements of the film remain, we’ve taken liberties to enhance the experience of seeing the show live onstage.  The goal was to amplify everything we loved about the movie.  To do that we’ve interpolated songs and turned a few songs from the movie into big production numbers. We’ve made narrative adjustments, looking at characters and their humanity through a contemporary lens, while keeping it all firmly rooted in the period in which the film was created. I think the result is something quite special.

Why should everyone come see Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn this fall?
As Gordon Greenberg said in his “Director’s vision” for our playbill, “Holiday Inn is a sparkly new musical with all the great Irving Berlin songs from the film—and many more Berlin songs that audiences will recognize and love.  It has big dance numbers, big ideas and most of all, a big heart. It’s all about the beauty of being true to yourself; living simply and honestly and finding rewards in doing what you love on your own terms.”  Isn’t that reason enough for a visit to East Haddam?

And the best time to see Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn will be at the NAMT New Works Summit on November 13!  

For more information about the show, please visit

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