2011 Wright State University musical theater graduate Darien Crago of Westerville is making her Broadway debut in the ensemble of “Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical” at New York’s Studio 54 through Jan. 15, 2017. CONTRIBUTED

Wright State grad makes Broadway debut in ‘Holiday Inn’

The wonderfully feel-good Broadway production of “Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical” has an extra sparkle in its nostalgic step because its excellent ensemble features the Broadway debut of 2011 Wright State University musical theater alumna Darien Crago.

In this delightful musical comedy throwback, based on the 1942 Academy Award-winning film of the same name and serving as a fine companion to “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” which had a successful Broadway and touring run in recent years, Crago illuminates such carefree numbers as “Heat Wave,” “Happy Holiday,” “You’re Easy to Dance With” and “Easter Parade.” In addition to showcasing her terrific tap dancing, she contributes to a showstopping jump rope sequence in “Shaking the Blues Away,” which completely blew me away at the Sept. 25 preview.

“Our choreographer Denis Jones is so fun and imaginative,” said Crago during a break before joining the cast to record a holiday track as part of this year’s Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS “Carols for a Cure” CD. “I’ll never forget the day Denis came into the studio with jump ropes and told us that he had this playful idea to incorporate them into this big tap number. And sure enough, it’s the number everyone can’t get enough of. It’s actually my favorite scene in the show.”

The Westerville native has been involved with “Holiday Inn” since its inception two years ago. She appeared in its regional tryouts at Connecticut’s Goodspeed Opera House and the St. Louis MUNY. She’s also been a part of the New York City Center Encores! concert productions of “Paint Your Wagon” and “Lady, Be Good!” She’s grateful to have been a part of the show’s development and have the opportunity to appear on Broadway in a show that caters to her interests.

“It’s been so special to see how ‘Holiday Inn’ has shaped and grown,” she said. “I think it’s the best version we have. One of the special things about this show is its old-fashioned charm, but the script has been updated so it has contemporary, relatable humor. The musical arrangements have been updated as well. My favorite type of show to do is centered in the Golden Age of Broadway or Hollywood song and dance era so to be able to showcase my talents in my favorite era is truly a dream. Between the costumes, the choreography, the message of the show, and cast and creative team, it’s just been an all-around good time.”

Crago’s love of dance began as young child when she started ballet lessons at age 3. She added tap when she was 6. She admits she never would’ve guessed she would be tap dancing on Broadway due to her first love of ballet, but she’s glad to have had extensive training in both genres. In particular she is very appreciative for the instruction received at Wright State specifically citing professors Teressa Wylie McWilliams, Joe Deer, Greg Hellems and Jamie Cordes.

“Musical theater certainly incorporated all of my loves,” said Crago who notably appeared in WSU’s dance-friendly productions of “42nd Street,” “Lady, Be Good!,” and “The Pajama Game.”

“What a thrill to have been a part of ‘Lady, Be Good!’ at Wright State and perform the show years later at City Center opposite Tommy Tune,” she said. “Tommy was so funny. You have to look up all the time to talk to him! He’s the best and such a vessel of knowledge.

“But I look back fondly on my years at Wright State. Those four intense years of training helped me prepare for this business. The attentive care of each of my teachers was unmatched and nurtured my love of this business. Some schools are just too big to offer that kind of personal care. And there’s no better experience than performing and Wright State offers great seasons and great opportunities for students to perform. I really encourage students to cherish training and to also find out how to love being a student because that never stops. Since moving to New York, I’ve noticed you’re forever a student. You continue to take classes and learn from people around you. I’m glad Wright State helped instill a love of learning because that never ends. Finding your passion and striving to always get better is important.”

ABOUT HOLIDAY INN

Directed and co-written by Gordon Greenberg, “Holiday Inn” stars Tony Award nominee Bryce Pinkham (“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”) as Jim Hardy and particularly dynamic dancer Corbin Bleu (“Disney’s High School Musical,” the Human Race Theatre Company’s “Family Shots”) as Ted Hanover, roles respectively portrayed on screen by Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. The musical, which opened Oct. 6, is scheduled for a limited engagement at New York’s Studio 54 through Jan. 15, 2017, but Crago says there is a possibility of an extension based on the show’s inherent appeal. An appearance on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is also not out of the question.

“You can’t help but smile through the entire show,” she said. “To me, there’s nothing better than getting a chance to do a show that allows people to escape which is sometimes necessary in this day and age. The fact that I get to experience all the perks of Broadway for the first time with a show that’s very near and dear to my heart is so special. I’m cherishing every moment.”

For tickets or more information about “Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical” visit www.roundaboutheatre.org.

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