by Melanie Nelson, Independent Reviewer
Everyone is “stuck” in Between for a reason. This metaphor comes to life in the world premiere of Inn Between the Holidays at St. Croix Off Broadway Dinner Theatre located in the Best Western Hudson House Inn, Hudson, WI.
It is a story of small town hopes and dreams for something bigger and better for members of a local band, inn owners, and those that find themselves there. The week between Christmas and New Year’s offers a chance for something better for our cast of characters, as the band prepares for its chance to perform for Sugar Land Records and a shot at a recording contract.
St. Croix Off Broadway Dinner Theatre patrons will be thrilled to see Joseph Lullo back on stage behind a microphone and lead guitar, as he was last season in Pump Boys and Dinettes. Joseph plays Josh, the band leader. His comforting voice and old beat up guitar fill the stage with one of the shows most touching moments in a soul filled “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” The magic is topped only when his love interest Alex, the girl next door and waitress at the Inn Between, joins him with the sweet sound of her violin. Alex, played by Tamara Philbrick Ripley, is skilled not only in violin, but also on keyboard, vocally, and with a quick wit as a match for Josh.
Jon Bice, a newcomer to the St. Croix Off Broadway stage, is sure to quickly become a favorite as he portrays an indecisive Tag. His friends say he has to “trip a girl to pick one up,” but he fires up the band and lights up the stage as he belts out his original ballad “The Fossil Fuel Blues” from behind the keyboard. His song, about finding himself with a girl in his truck and it’s on “E,” is just one of three original songs by James A. Zimmerman and J. Michael Roy.
Playwright and artistic director James Zimmerman skillfully has woven this layered tale of love and determination with music as entertaining as “All I Want For Christmas Is a Real Good Tan,” the country favorite, “I Love This Bar,” and an original crowd pleaser “I’m Feelin’ So Bad ’Cause I’m Feelin’ So Good.”
All of this good natured music and talk of love and life reside in the Inn Between, a roadhouse café/bar/hotel on Highway 87 just outside of Between, Georgia. Owners Jan and Jake (played by Angel Brelie and Wayne Peterson) hold this family, of sorts, together. Jan’s calming reassuring presence in the Inn Between is enough to calm a haggard traveler, and her foresight is enough to steady her own voice when she knows that there won’t be enough money to keep their business.
But good things happen to good people, especially in Between. And that cranky traveler Jan calms Christmas Eve is back New Year’s Eve to calm all their fears. Tom Monn, as that mysterious traveler, has performed previously in Love, Sex, and the I.R.S. and The Odd Couple at St. Croix Off Broadway, and he’s also the Master of Ceremonies for this show.
Though the story is set in Georgia, there is one character from our cheese-loving state that brings a bit of Wisconsin flavor to the south. He may be a little awkward, but at the Inn Between they love Seth for his skill with a wrench in the shop and his fingers on guitar. No bar would be complete without their delivery guy, and no band would be complete without an insurance salesman for a drummer, would they? The cast is rounded out by Matthew Sheppard, Rick Fields, and Kevin Quigley.
There’s laughter, there’s drama, there’s country and blues music with good old-fashioned Christmas music. The themes that string all these things along are chosen with a sense of character and a true belief in the good of all mankind. This is not the cheesy Christmas show you may be used to seeing around the holidays, whose only purpose is to lighten your feet for two hours. This is a show that can solidify holiday cheer throughout the year.
Inn Between the Holidays opens the day after Thanksgiving and runs most Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from November 28 to January 3 with a special New Year’s Eve show and Valley Big Band performance. The cost for dinner, show, tax, and tip is $52; children ages 6 to 12, $28; and New Year’s Eve, $75. For reservations call 715-386-2394 ext. 333 or visit www.stcroixoffbroadway.com.
St. Croix Off Broadway Dinner Theatre
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