New York City Theater
Sondheim Theater, Broadway
If you take a trip, you’re obviously headed somewhere. The revival of the 1934 “Anything Goes” still sails along with great Cole Porter music and lyrics and snappy tap dancing. No wonder. The original score includes “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top” and “Blow Gabriel Blow,” plus the rousing title tune. Added here are “Easy to Love,” “Friendship” and “It’s De-lovely” (the first written for the original but cut in rehearsals, the others from other shows).
But oh that libretto. And oh those terrible jokes.
The show’s shipboard shenanigans involve Reno Sweeney (a “reformed” evangelist, now a nightclub singer), Moonface Martin (Public Enemy #13) and a nouveau riche mother and daughter. Mom wants daughter to marry wealthy Englishman but she’s in love with Wall St., apprentice Billy Crocker. Also on board are Chinese converts, Reno’s bump-and-grind “Angels” (Purity, Chastity, Charity and Virtue), plus a man-crazy moll and, of course, assorted sailors.
The revival doesn’t even begin to move until the Act One finale, a churning, high-energy title song which brings not only the curtain but the house down. The second act is somewhat better but it all begins to seem like a concert featuring those inimitable tunes and lyrics. (Who else but Porter could would write “the Tin-Pan-tithesis of melody” or rhyme “champagne” and “cocaine”?)
Though Reno is the star role (Ethel Merman was the original), she’s offstage too much to drive the story. Still, as Reno, Sutton Foster is cheerfully tough, singing and dancing with abandon. Joel Grey goes for the cutes as Moonface Martin. But Colin Donnell is a superb Irish tenor, a handsome presence and a budding star, while John McMartin as a near-sighted businessman steals his every scene.
Kathleen Marshall, a better choreographer than director, here goes for broke wearing both hats. With its high-wattage choreography, the result is a mostly merry way to while away a couple of hours. Besides, the production looks great and, after all, doesn’t pretend to be anything by slick, shiny and silly.
--David A. Rosenberg
April 15, 2011