Monday, April 4, 2011

Review of "Anything Goes"

Sutton Foster is clearly the star of the understated, occasionally high-octane revival of Anything Goes. Foster has demonstrated year-in and year-out that she is one of the best musical comedy comediennes on Broadway. Her powerful, multi-octave voice, athleticism, and dizzying dancing skills add luster to any production featuring her. As nightclub singer Reno Sweeney, in Anything Goes, she adds one more Tony worthy performance to her repertoire.

However, one could argue, the real star of the show is the Cole Porter score which includes such classics as “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “Friendship,” “It’s De-Lovely,” and “Anything Goes.” And that’s just in Act One! Many of the songs are lovingly presented with just two performers out in front of the mammoth cruise ship set, singing and dancing. Unlike the current revival of How to Succeed in Business, where busyness is the norm in all the musical numbers, Anything Goes’ Director/Choreographer Kathleen Marshall focuses on the songs and performers. At times I hoped a chorus line would materialize onstage, but that would have been a distraction and taken away from the very essence of Porter’s ballads and comedic duets. At the end of Act One the musical finally does deliver a full-blown, intoxicating tap dancing extravaganza by the entire cast. I think, at its conclusion, the audience was just as wired at the actors on stage.

The second Act continues with a spirited production number by Sutton Foster and the cast of “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” and then, for the most part, settles down to sort out the silly plot lines of the book. The libretto by P.G. Wodehouse, Guy Bolton, Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse, with new material by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, is typical of 1930’s musicals where the storyline is secondary and the jokes can make you wince. In Anything Goes, which takes place about a transatlantic cruise ship, there’s the requisite mistaken identities, seemingly unrequited love of the two young protagonists, and a happy ending where all loose ends are magically resolved and true love wins out for everyone .

Colin Donnell as the debonair, sure-minded, Billy Crocker and Laura Osnes, as the flustered debutante, Hope Harcourt, are fine as the two lovers trying to come together. They look good together and even though their relationship is complicated by Harcourt’s impending marriage to Lord Oakleigh you know the couple will eventually end up in each other’s arms. Seventy-nine year old Joel Grey, is at his impish best as Public Enemy Number 13, Moonface Martin. Grey can still nimbly cavort around the stage and hold his own against his much younger mates.

Martin Pakledinaz’s costume designs add a lushness and elegance to the show, richly bringing out the high style swankiness of transatlantic travel.

Director/Choreographer Marshall is at her best staging the large dance numbers, but also gently caresses the more low volume ballads. She keeps the large cast engaged and in step as they basically move into position for the next Cole Porter delight.

Anything Goes, a musical theater classic, now setting sail from the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on Broadway.

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