After seeing opening night of “Anything Goes” at that Ahmanson, I’m still humming the tunes this morning. In these dark economic times this top notch Roundabout Theatre Company production is a great pick me up.
If you’re a fan of the movies, you might be a tad disappointed. Keep an open mind and you’ll soon be tapping your toes and wanting to get up and dress elegant and dance. Fans of the musical may also been surprised. Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse’s original book has been revised by Howard Lindsay and John Weidman. Yet “Anything Goes” has a history of revisions so purists shouldn’t be offended. The 1962 off-Broadway revival was revised, influenced by the movies. More Cole Porter songs were added such as “It’s De-Lovely” from “Red Hot and Blue” and “Friendship” from “DuBarry Was a Lady.”
The Tony Award-winning 1987 Broadway revival changed the order of some of the musical numbers and re-scored the music. It’s the revival of this 1987 version (which starred Patti Lupone) that opened on Broadway in 2011 with Sutton Foster playing Reno Sweeney. Foster went on to win a Tony for Best Actress. Foster left the Broadway production for star in the ABC family comedy “Bunheads.”
Cast in her place for the national tour is Rachel York. York’s Sweeney has plenty of glamour and she was able to sail through a few technical problems with the microphones on opening night.
Martin Pakledinaz’s costume design and Derek McLane’s scenic design give you all the sophisticated grace and beauty of the 1930s. It makes this the perfect toe-tapping opportunity to dress up Los Angeles.
In the first act, Reno Sweeney (York) meets with the man she thinks loves her, Billy Crocker (Erich Bergen). Crocker is a Wall Street broker working for Elisha Whitney (Dennis Kelly). Whitney is about to embark on a journey and Crocker has forgotten to bring Whitney’s passport.
Sweeney is also boarding that same ship with her back-up singing Angels, Purity (Jacqueline Burtney), Chastity (Courtney Rottenberger), Charity (Dionna Thomas Littleton) and Virtue (Vanessa Sonon). Sweeney is billed as the “most sensuous sermonizer.”
Also on board is another virtue: Hope. Hope Harcourt (Alex Finke) is an American debutante engaged to Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (Edward Staudenmayer) for his money at the urging of her practical mother, the widowed Evangeline (Sandra Shipley). Like Rose in “Titanic,” the Harcourt family is facing hard times and it’s the daughter who needs to marry for money. Evelyn isn’t an evil, jealous guy, but a likable lord who attempts to learn the American lingo with often hilarious results.
In keeping with the light-hearted religious theme, Bishop Henry T. Dobson (Gary Lindemann) also boards the ship with his two Chinese converts, Luke (Vincent Rodriguez III) and John (Marcus Shane) who used to be gamblers.
A criminal element boards–second-rate gangster Moonface Martin (Fred Applegate) and although he’s only the 13th on the most wanted list, his friend “Snakes Eyes” Johnson is public enemy number 1. Billy, hoping to prevent Hope’s marriage to Evelyn, stows away on the ship and is mistaken for Snake Eyes.
As this is all about romance, there’s no need to worry about anything unseemly except for the man-lusting lady Erma (Joyce Chittick).
What you get is a night filled with beautiful people flitting across the stage to great Cole Porter tunes such as “I Get a Kick Out of You” (first song of the night and sung by York), “You’re the Top” (Reno and Billy), “Friendship” (Moonface and Reno), “It’s De-lovely” (Billy and Hope) and “Anything Goes.” Staudenmayer and York are hysterical in the comedic take on “The Gypsy in Me” and their chemistry is a cool burn.
Director Kathleen Marshall has planned a cruise worth boarding, filled with beautiful people are making beautiful moves and finding romance. This is like the Love Boat with more style and money (and you won’t have to take motion sickness pills).
Need a spiritual lift? Want to be transported back to an era of grace and luxury? Enjoy Cole Porter? The production of “Anything Goes” is like a smooth cruise back to the 1930s with rose-colored glasses.
“Anything Goes” continues until January 6, 2013 at the Ahmanson. For more information, visit the Ahmanson website.