Disclaimer: I saw the Anything Goes on their first preview, March 10, 2011. No press tickets were given; I purchased my own ticket.
It’s delicious in every respect.
Not only is it one of the best revivals I have seen in recent years, it’s one of the best shows that I’ve seen on Broadway in a long time. While other Broadway shows are trying to push the envelope, Anything Goes ends up being good-ole fashioned musical theatre fun. It doesn’t need to be technically over-produced like Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark, or pushing the limits on subject matter like in Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s musical, The Book of Mormon because Anything Goes is a classic.
Kathleen Marshall, the director and choreographer, has done an impeccable job recreating this 1930’s Broadway staple, but she also put her own creative stamp on it. The inventive and well-polished choreography in this show will blow you away. From the minute the tap shoes start tapping in the titled number, “Anything Goes” at the end of Act 1, you know you are in for a treat. That tap number is going down in Broadway history and is worth the price of the ticket alone. The new dance arrangements by David Chase are sensational! By the end of that number, the audience was in an absolute frenzy and we still had the entire Act 2 to go!
Marshall understood the balance of the show and infused longer dance breaks when appropriate, but never over-indulged in choreography (as a lot of director/choreographers often do). The beautiful ballroom dancing in “Easy to Love” took my breath away. The charming Billy Crocker (Colin Donnell) and beautiful Hope Harcourt (Laura Osnes) danced the night away. Then, of course, “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” blew everyone away in Act 2. Marshall’s stage pictures were dynamic and incredibly intricate. The cast nailed it.
It’s also interesting to note that Marshall understood where the book needed some extra support. She used the choreography to tell the story and create deeper relationships between the characters. Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Adam Godley) and Reno Sweeney’s (Sutton Foster) duet, “The Gypsy in Me” was hilarious and only cemented their relationship even further. Sutton Foster and Joel Grey almost stole the show with their comical rendition of “Friendship”. Cole Porter’s lyrics are to die for and both Foster and Grey found the humor in every line. It was perfection.
Now to talk about the formidable Sutton Foster. Let’s just say this: if she doesn’t win the Tony Award for this portrayal of Reno Sweeney, I’m going to be flabbergasted. She sings it better than I’ve ever heard before (her belting was sublime), dances it with ease and finds nuance in the script that no one ever knew was there. As Lord Oakleigh would say, “She is the dog’s pajamas.” She is one of the few actors on the Broadway stage that is a true triple threat. She is a becoming a true Broadway legend.
Now you add that type of talent and combine it with Joel Grey and you have a sure-fire hit. Grey’s Moonface Martin is likable, funny and a little bit sweet. Somehow, all of the prop mishaps that occurred in the first preview, were related to Grey’s scenes and he made them hysterical. A quick glance to the audience with a raised eye-brow sent us into hysterics. Some of the timing was off in the dialogue in the second act, but it was only the first preview and it will only get tighter and tighter after each performance.
One of the great things about this show is how wonderful the cast is. It couldn’t have been cast any better. (Now, why did Bye Bye Birdie, the previous revival in the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, have such a hard time with casting?) Elisha Whitney (John McMartin) is sometimes seen has a throw away role, and Whitney’s drunk portrayal was spot-on funny. Jessica Walter, who plays Mrs. Evangeline Harcourt, milked every scene she was in. All of her little “bits” were hysterical. My favorite being when she ran on stage with her life vest and all of her jewelry screaming that the ship was sinking — wrong musical honey! Even Erma (Jessica Stone) was delightful in her song, “Buddie, Beware”.
The set was beautifully lit by Peter Kaczorowski with saturated blues, reds, purples throughout. The stunning sunrises and sunsets were gorgeous. You could literally see the sun hit the deck of the ship, or vice versa. The mood was easily set by the lights and Kaczorowski did a hellavu job. The band, directed by James Lowe, created an infectious energy starting from their first note in the Overture. (It was also really wonderful to hear a musical with a true Overture and Entr’Acte.) The updated orchestrations and dance arrangements were fantastic. I can’t wait to hear them again on a cast album.
Overall, Anything Goes is a slice of musical theatre heaven. While there’s no “Heaven Hop” in this revival, Kathleen Marshall found a cast that is going to take this Broadway season by storm. Forget all of those new musicals coming out, Anything Goes is the quintessential Broadway musical and should be seen by everyone.
As the song says, “It’s delightful, it’s delicious. It’s delectable, it’s delirious. It’s dilemma, it’s delimit, it’s deluxe. It’s de-lovely”.