Anything Goes: A Tony Award Winning Musical Revival
Anything Goes is not just a classic musical, it’s what every musical strives to be. Whether you’ve seen it before or not, if you grew up in the USA, you’ve certainly heard all (or very nearly all) of the songs in this show before. The first act alone contains such classics as: “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “De-Lovely,” and, “Anything Goes.”
See what I mean?
After seeing the show in Dallas at the Winspear Opera House, it’s easy to see why this revival by New York City’s Roundabout Theatre Company walked away with three Tony® Awards in 2011, including Best Revival of a Musical.
Anything Goes revolves around a character named Reno Sweeney (Rachel York) who is billed as an evangelist/nightclub singer. This seemed an unlikely combination to me until I learned that the character is loosely based upon the real-life Aimee Semple McPherson, a notorious evangelist known for her sex appeal, as well as an infamous speakeasy hostess called Texas Guinan, who was known for greeting her patrons with a hearty, “Hello suckers!” (Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation may be interested to know that, Guinan, the intergalactic bar tender played by Whoopie Goldberg, was named in honor of the latter.)
First called Hard to Get, then Bon Voyage, the show’s title was inspired by a comment made by the actor Willam Galton when Cole Porter overheard him tell an interviewer that, “In this kind of a spot, anything goes!” The phrase clicked with Porter, who showed up the next day with the completed song; the rest, as they say, is history.
The fact that Anything Goes originally opened in 1934, smack in the middle of the Great Depression, makes this revival all the more apropos, since the show is making its rounds as America once again recovers from an economic crisis.
In a role originally played by Ethel Merman, Rachel York shines as Reno Sweeney. In addition to her strong singing voice, showgirl good looks and gorgeous gams, there’s a touch of Mae West to York’s speaking voice that makes it seem as though she stepped straight out of an old movie.
As for the plot, think of a light-hearted version of the movie “Titanic” in which, instead of the boat sinking, there’s tap dancing and you won’t be shedding any tears, unless you’re the sort who needs to wipe their eyes when laughing.
The story follows a group of passengers crossing the Atlantic aboard the SS American. The aforementioned singer/evangelist Reno Sweeney (Rachel York) is smitten with the handsome stockbroker, Billy Crocker (Erich Bergen/Josh Franklin). Billy, however, is crazy over Hope Harcourt (Alex Finke), a debutante whose family lost their fortune in the stock market crash. For this reason, Hope’s desperate mother, Mrs. Evangeline Harcourt (Sandra Shipley) is determined that Hope should marry a wealthy Englishman named Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Edward Staudenmayer).
When Billy impulsively decides to stow away aboard the SS American, he winds up befriending the criminal Moonface Martin (Fred Applegate) who is disguised as a minister. Together with Martin’s sex-crazed moll, Erma (Joyce Chittick), the characters bumble towards a happy ending – with much singing and dancing along the way, of course!
Although the musical is built around the title song, “Anything Goes” Porter himself considered “I Get A Kick Out of You” the best song of the show. For this reason, he purposely placed it early in the production so that those who chose to arrive fashionably late would be cheated out of hearing it!
No matter what Porter’s opinions, the real show stopper of the night – in this production at least – is, “Anything Goes,” a strenuous tap-dancing number that had the opening night crowd hooting and applauding before it even ended.
Another highlight of the show is “Gypsy in Me,” a song and dance number featuring the characters Reno Sweeney and Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Edward Staudenmayer sang and danced with such dorky abandon (at times echoed comically by Rachel York) that it had me laughing out loud.
In short, this revival of Anything Goes is well worth seeing. Grab your tickets while you can!
For More Information:
What:ANYTHING GOES a Tony® Award winning musical revival by New York City’s Roundabout Theatre Company
When: February 13 through 24, 2013
Where: 2403 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201
Price: Tickets start at $30. Check availability and book online at the AT&T Performing Art Center official website.
Runtime:Approximately 3 hours, including one intermission.
NOTE: While tickets were provided for review purposes, the opinions expressed in this article are wholly my own.
Photo credits: All photos provided courtesy of the AT&T Performing Arts Center