Review: Anything Goes

Anything Goes, Cole Porter’s musical romp across the Atlantic on the S.S. American, is a sturdy old cruiser of a show; as long as you don’t totally fuck it up, it’s always a fizzy bit of fun for the audience. Bookwriters and directors are forever tinkering with it: the show in its current form resembles the show that premiered in 1934 only in its broad outlines. But as long as you retain the core of the fabulous Porter score and the soul of kooky characters like Reno Sweeney and Moonface Martin, it’s hard to go wrong with this one.

So, although director Kathleen Marshall’s production is a little rough around the edges, it still largely delivers what you expect from Anything Goes. Sutton Foster has definitely got the belting voice and giddy charisma for nightclub evangelist Reno Sweeney (loosely based on the decidedly more conservative evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson), and is certainly a superior hoofer to Patti LuPone and Ethel Merman, Broadway’s most notable prior Renos. She’s giving a fun, accomplished, perfectly pleasing performance.

Joel Grey also has some charming moments as softhearted gangster Moonface Martin, but doesn’t seem to have what they call in the biz an “arc”, a journey that makes dramatic sense of his character’s personal story. Granted, no version of this show’s book has given Moonface much more than a series of comic bits, but that’s all the more reason that an actor and director need to work to supply an arc, even in a featherweight comedy like this. Marshall and Grey seem to have collectively dropped this particular stitch in their tapestry.

This revival features a standout performance in a role that’s usually somewhat glossed over: Adam Godley as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. And its a bit of a stealth performance: he tools along gracefully, his character’s little arc firmly in place, until his big Act II number “The Gypsy In Me” when – Bam! Pow! – he totally nails it, delivering the song and dance with real fire, knocking all of the song’s comedy right out of the ballpark.

Marshall does give us truly snazzy choreography, though it’s awkwardly framed by Derek McLane’s too-big-for-the-stage set and Marshall’s own traffic patterns. I’m a bit puzzled why Marshall, who made The Pajama Game sizzle a few seasons back, didn’t put this together more skillfully. But as I’ve said, not that big a deal, Anything Goes is still just as much fun as it always has been and always will be.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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