I don’t know what they do at the Chanhassen, whether it’s the directors and creative team, the cast who all seem like best friends, or the fact that they serve wine and enormous slices of chocolate cake at intermission, because every performance puts a smile on my face and makes me believe that everyone up on stage to the server bringing my wine is having the time of their lives. And, experiencing Holiday Inn is no exception. Somehow, we even got acquainted with the folks sharing our table. Whatever it is, the fine actors, the expert direction, or the chocolate cake, the Chanhassen Dinner Theaters celebrates 50 years of success, entertainment, and building community this year. Congratulations to anyone who has been involved!

“Let’s Start the New Year Right” Linda, Ted, Jim, ensemble of Holiday Inn at the Chanhassen Dinner Theaters. Photos: Tom Wallace, 2018

The premise for Holiday Inn is classic Hollywood, circa 1940. You have a love triangle, or square depending on how you look at it, competition between the leading men, and beautiful women who carry the show within a show. You have the longing for a “regular life” clashing with the desire to perform and become successful, and a few misunderstandings along the way. Add in the endearing music and lyrics of Irving Berlin, and you’ve got a hit!

“Shakin’ the Blues Away” Holiday ensemble CDT. Photos: Tom Wallace, 2018

Jim (Michael Gruber) has broken off from his performing partner Ted (Tony Vierling), proposed to his leading lady Lila (Jessica Fredrickson) and bought a farm in Connecticut. The handy woman (the hilarious and talented Michelle Barber) gets him and his property fixed up, and the sweet neighbor and local school teacher Linda (Ann Michels) gives him new inspiration. It is simply a darling show with all the parts that make you smile. Jim realizes that he is a performer at heart and wants to employ his friends who are only available during the holidays, so they do a series of shows spanning the year and its various holidays. We are treated to songs like Blue Skies, Steppin’ Out with my Baby, Heat Wave, Cheek to Cheek, Easter Parade, and of course White Christmas, to name a few. You can’t help but hum along (but quietly, so you don’t irritate your table mates).

Valentine’s Day. Holiday Inn at CDT. Photos: Tom Wallace, 2018

We were blown away by the talent on stage, the energy, and the gorgeous costumes. The costume department, headed by Rich Hamson and Susan Fick, worked hard on this production with different costumes for each number and cast member. From flowing white dresses and tuxedos during the New Year’s Eve scene, to floral dresses, and patriotic costumes, and velvety Christmas outfits, and, many more mixed in. Michael Gruber is charming and debonair as Jim. Tony Vierling shines in a role that seems tailor made for him with his lovely “Fred Astaire” dance moves. Jessica Frerickson is the beautiful star-climbing blonde, and Ann Michels steals the show as the sweet school teacher with the angelic voice and smooth dance moves. The entire ensemble is wonderful, and the musicians, directed by Andy Kust, are amazing. The entire cast shines under the expert direction of Michael Brindisi. It is Chanhassen Dinner Theater at its finest.

“Firecrackers and Buttons” 4th of July. Holiday Inn ensemble. Photo: Tom Wallace, 2018

I could rave about this show for pages, but I won’t because you need to get your tickets, now. Treat yourself and your whole family to a lovely night out at the Chanhassen Dinner Theaters, where their signature chicken dish has been served over 4,000,000 times, and they still serve their dinners to your table (vs. buffet style) with friendly wait staff, elegant wines, and enormous chocolate cake. You might even make a new friend at your table, or find yourself wishing that you’d taken more dance classes as a youngster. Holiday Inn is playing at The Chanhassen Dinner Theaters through February 23, 2019.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: What are some family activities you enjoy over the holidays (any holiday)?