Many critics bemoan the state of Broadway today: the tired celebrity-driven revivals (How to Succeed...), the costly media spectacles (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark), the now heavily-tread movie-turned-musical formula (Catch Me if You Can) are all fodder for theatre fans to reminisce about the "good ol' days".
Well, for those who long for said days, they're alive and kicking (quite literally) at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre where the Roundabout Theatre Company christened their revival of the classic Cole Porter musical Anything Goes April 7th. With a sparkling score heavy on showtune classics, this production, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall is a Valentine to Broadway musicals of yore.
The fizzy show comes from an era when Broadway was skimpy on plot and big on personality and sweeping, energetic music, and Marshall wisely stays true to the show's roots as a revue Porter to parade his talents at the hands of a troupe of golden-voiced performers. Despite nips and tucks to the book by John Weidman, the show's crux remains on the farcical misdeeds of the comically lovesick and lovelorn passengers aboard a New York bound ocean liner. As the quirky, cartoonish characters entangle and de-tangle themselves from flimsy dramaturgical complications ranging from the romantic to the criminal, the spotlight never strays far from the glorious musical score. The scenes are kept peppy and quick-paced with (often dated) witticisms and zingers being tossed back and forth more quickly than a tennis ball.
But where the the speed slows is during Porter's sublime musical interventions. Featuring songs like, "I Get a Kick Out of You," "Friendship," "You're the Top," "Easy to Love," "Blow,Gabriel,Blow," and the eponymous tune, it's a savvy move to allow the audience to savor in, and in some cases marvel at, Porter's tremendous talent at marrying infectious melody with cunning lyrics.
As the show's star, Reno Sweeney -- as evangelist-cum-nightlub singer -- two powerhouse performers have inhabited the role on Broadway—the legendary human-trumpet Ethel Merman in 1934 and the brassy, flame-haired Patti Lupone in the 1987 revival. Rising Broadway starlet Sutton Foster takes the reigns for this revival and her interpretation is a younger, sexier, less brash model but she manipulates her smooth, resonant voice and lean dancers' body to make a powerful impact. Also starring is Broadway vet Joel Grey in the role of the mobster disguised as priest Moonface Martin. The cast is attractive, spirited and vibrant and make no qualms with delivering the largely perfunctory book with a bunch of wink-wink, nudge-nudge attitude, racing their ways to the meatier musical numbers.
So sure, Broadway may be in the dumps -- or even worse, the hands of Disney and corporate America -- but as Reno and company remind the audience at the end of Act 1, times <have> changed. Perhaps there is no revival in store for Broadway's Golden Age will never see another revival, but it's good to know we've still got the cheery reminders of days gone by.
For more information on Anything Goes, click here.
photo credit: Joan Marcus, 2011