All Aboard for Fun with Cole Porter's Anything Goes
Some shows never change. Like Wicked, A Chorus Line, Chicago. Some do, however, and two that have changed for the better are big comedies with music on Dallas stages for one more weekend.
The splashy Broadway tour of Cole Porter's Anything Goes is at the Winspear. Set on a transatlantic luxury liner in 1934 — one decidedly more shipshape and shit-free than the cruise that made news recently — it's a grand old bit of musical frippery given a madcap makeover by director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall, good enough to be the 2011 Tony winner for Best Musical Revival.
Anything Goes, now 80-something years old, sends up pop culture and the public's obsession with celebrities, a theme still fairly relevant here in the United States of Lohan. Confused identities and silly disguises keep everyone guessing who's famous and who's not among the passengers and crew in the show, whose original book is by P.G. Wodehouse (of Jeeves and Wooster fame), along with Guy Bolton, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse (with revisions and retooling for the 1987 revival by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman).
Tap-dancing up the gangplank is brassy nightclub star Reno Sweeney (played spectacularly by Broadway veteran Rachel York) who belts the Good News — "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" being her hottest hymn — backed up by a choir of strippers. She's on board to perform her act and to chase a young boyfriend, stockbroker Billy Crocker (Erich Bergen during opening week, replaced by Josh Franklin this week). He's in love with a snooty debutante, Hope Harcourt (Alex Finke), who's smitten with Billy but engaged to wealthy Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Edward Staudenmayer, stealing scenes just with his floppy hair). Eventually the Good Lord leads Reno to catch the rich Lord's eye and they pair up, but not before some stateroom antics that rival the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera.
Joining the games at sea is goofy gangster Moonface Martin (Fred Applegate, whom you'll recognize from hundreds of TV character parts). He's disguised as a priest, which makes for some nutty mix-ups. And there's dotty old Elisha Whitney (Dennis Kelly), a sis-boom-bah Yalie who happens to be Billy's boss. Even he finds amour by the time the ship docks and the curtain falls.
Every song's a Cole Porter classic in Anything Goes, from the title number (the one about glimpses of stocking being shocking, performed in a huge eight-minute, tap-tastic finale to the first act) to "You're the Top," "I Get a Kick Out of You," "It's De-lovely" and "Friendship." It's all a perfect blendship of big Broadway gloss and expert delivery of comedy, music and dance.
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