Steppin’ Out with Megan Sikora of BroadwayHD’s Holiday Inn

Megan Sikora

 

Cast (photo Bruce Gilkas)

 

by Matt Smith

 

If you’re burdened down with trouble and your nerves are wearing thin, then BroadwayHD has the antidote to ensure the merry bells keep ringing throughout the holiday season. From November 17th, the popular theatre streaming service hosts the return of Holiday Inn, the live-to-tape broadcast of the 2016 Broadway premiere, which ran at Studio 54 last Fall, following engagements at Goodspeed Opera House and the MUNY in St. Louis.

The story follows song-and-dance connoisseur Jim Hardy (Bryce Pinkham), as he leaves the bright lights of Broadway for bluer skies and a supposedly better life on the Connecticut farm. While he ultimately ends up reinvigorating his passion for performing and finding romance anew in schoolteacher Linda Mason (Lora Lee Gayer), he leaves behind “two years of laughter, song and love” with his chorus girl flame, Lila Dixon. But don’t cry too hard for Lila…or at all, if you can help it; she’s not nearly as much the “damsel in distress” as you might think. At least, not according to the woman who gave her life: her portrayer Megan Sikora.

“She chose her career,” the seasoned Broadway vet asserts. “Lila chose to do the thing that made her truly happy.” Doing so actually made her, in a way, revolutionary, which, for Sikora, made her all the more appealing. “You didn’t do that back then [in 1946]. She was sort of a modern woman [in that way]… ahead of her time. I really appreciated that about her.”

But, as it often goes, with these admirable aspects came the inevitable challenges, as Sikora aimed to please while staying true to her character’s core. “Everyone always expects [these character types] to be fun and lighthearted,” she explains. “[But] I don’t play dumb characters.” Referencing Bambi Bernet, her critically-acclaimed role in 2007’s Curtains, also frequently mistaken for vapid, she, once and for all, sets the record straight: “[Lila] uses her looks… she uses her talent… she uses her attraction to get what she wants… and she succeeds! Bambi too! That’s not stupid! That’s really smart!” Still, the audience’s expectations lingered, and therein lay the challenge: “to play the coy type of character that the audience knows and loves without [sacrificing] the career path she’s so passionate about.”

One more debate she settles for the diehards?  “Lila really did love Jim… but for the wrong reasons,” adding that she and Pinkham worked to create an overly physical relationship for the two of them to offset Jim’s “real” emotional connection with Linda, whom he eventually marries at show’s end.

But to say that not ending up with the guy (or, at least the guy she started with, anyway), impeded in her ability to fully enjoy the experience, would be a shocking falsehood. After a personal conflict prevented her from joining the company in St. Louis, the self-proclaimed Irving Berlin fanatic (her favorite tune? “Heat Wave, of course!”) was downright overjoyed to get the call for Broadway. “I jumped right on that!” she laughs. “Who wouldn’t want to sing that swirling score every night?! It was such a gift.”

 

Photo: Joan Marcus

 

What’s more? Already an established hoofer as it was, she proved she “certainly can can-can” (and flip, dip, kick, etc). when she became the recipient of the inaugural Chita Rivera Award for Outstanding Female Dancer — an accolade which, given her extensive background in the form, carries a lot of emotional impact for her. “I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times,” stating that in accepting the award, she felt like she was receiving it for the cast. “Dancers are the hardest working people on Broadway. They are the backbone of any musical — they keep the show afloat. I mean, what is Holiday Inn without those jump ropes?” For that reason, it was “especially gratifying” to see the show recognized for its dynamic choreography at this past year’s Tony Awards.

And it’s exactly those jump ropes — amid the high kicks, flap steps, and firecrackers — that’ll be on full display throughout the show’s BroadwayHD run, and its subsequent PBS broadcast on November 24th. “It was a little nerve-wracking,” Sikora says, of taping the show live for simulcast last January. “You know, there’s always the possibility that something could go wrong…. We were all holding our breath during each [big number], saying, ‘Please don’t let this be the day.’” With all said and done, though, Sikora couldn’t be prouder of the result: “We had all the angels on our side that night and everything went really, really well.”

Equally exciting, too, is the idea that the show will now be accessible to the public on such a widespread level. “I think it’s incredible that people who don’t have the money to come to New York, or really even to see a touring company, can [now] be exposed to theatre. Back in the ‘40s and ‘50s — around the time of the show actually — the shows were on TV or the radio all the time, and that’s how most people got their exposure. A lot of kids out there today don’t get that opportunity. This will be a really unique, special chance for them to have that. I’m all for it!”

Megan Sikora – Chita Award

 

The idea of presenting this show specifically in this way to this wide an audience is especially poignant at this point in our history — a sentiment not lost on Sikora, or any other member of the company. On the verge of a dramatic change in the theatrical landscape, with “game-changing” productions like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen, she cannot stress enough the importance of the classics. “No matter what direction musical theatre goes in from here…. you have to have those shows that you just come out smiling and humming the tunes. You just have to.” Emphasizing that in tough times, people run to the theatre to “forget their lives” for two hours and change, she adds, “As important as it is to have these shows where you feel moved, where you feel educated, where you [emerge] from the theatre and immediately want to make the world a better place, it’s so imperative to have theatre that just simply makes you feel good.”

And luckily, with Holiday Inn, that’s exactly what you’ll get… and right from the comfort of your own home computer. Sounds like a happy holiday indeed — how could anybody ask for more?!

 

Holiday Inn is currently streaming on BroadwayHD. For access and/or subscription packages, please visit www.broadwayhd.com. Additionally, the show will be broadcast as part of PBS’ Great Performances series on November 24th. For more information, visit www.pbs.org. For more on actress Megan Sikora, visit www.megansikora.com.

 

 

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