BWW Reviews: 5th Ave's ANYTHING GOES Brings Charm, Humor & Spirit to a Classic
Do ya hear that playin'? Do ya know what's playin'? Why it's one of the best interpretations of a classic musical I've seen. The current touring production of Cole Porter's "Anything Goes", on stage now at the 5th Avenue Theatre, has three major things going for it; a director who understands the style and point of the show, a cast working their butts off while making it all look effortless and fun, and Rachel York. And all that amounts to perma-grin for two hours, leaving the theater with the uncontrollable urge to hum the tunes and a killer evening.
For those unfamiliar with the show (and I'm a little ashamed of you if you are, Dear Readers) the story is a simple one and quite standard for the era. Boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl. Girl is engaged to someone she doesn't love. Boy stows away on cruise ship to follow girl to England. Lounge singer and gangster friends of boy's on board as well (because, why not?). Boy is mistaken for Public Enemy #1. Lounge singer and gangster try to hide boy from authorities while trying to break up engagement and get boy together with girl. And all set to a toe tapping score in a show filled with comedy, break out tap numbers and classic Porter hits such as "You're the Top", "Easy to Love" and of course the eponymous "Anything Goes". Is it realistic? No. Is it fun? Hell yes! It's one of those wonderful shows where people burst into song for no reason but they know they're bursting into song. They sometimes even mention it in the song and that's the fun of it.
And director and choreographer extraordinaire, Kathleen Marshall, understands that fun and keeps it alive throughout. With little winks to the audience and one liner asides, the show is just brimming over with joy. And her choreography never once feels stale or rehashed but still retains the wonderful style of the 30's. And those dancers must either love or hate her, because she is making them work but work on some amazingly beautiful and high energy moments.
The cast is from the heavens and has plenty to crow about. Josh Franklin as Billy is the epitome of the matinee idol. He's tall, dark, and handsome with a 100 watt smile and comedic charm that could make anyone swoon to his side. And his chemistry with Rachel York as Reno Sweeney is perfection. Alex Finke as Billy's love interest Hope is gorgeous and she turns in some heartbreaking moments as the girl in love with the wrong man. Fred Applegate as gangster Moonface Martin couldn't be better with his rich voice, incredible comedic timing and general awesomeness and when paired with the outrageousness that is Joyce Chittick as the man crazy Erma, you have an ideal duo. Joey Sorge as Hope's naïve fiancé Lord Evelyn Oakleigh is hilarious. He never takes him over the top but still brings in the lovable ridiculousness the character needs. And his Gypsy number is worth the price of admission. And I have to mention the insanely talented team of dancers on the show. Not only are these some of the best hoofers around but this bevy of beautiful girls in slinky outfits and hunky boys in tight sailor uniforms lend enough eye candy for 20 shows.
But the true star of the show is the stunning Rachel York. Reno has to be bold, brash, and lovable with a killer set of pipes. Add into that York's insane dancing ability and triple threatedness and you could not ask for or get a better person for the role. Not only is she gorgeous and funny in the role but she keeps up with these younger dancers on every step even while she's belting out a large portion of the songs in the show. I've been lucky enough to see her in a few things now, especially her incredible turn in "Kiss Me Kate" (which is available on video and should be checked out) and I've come to the conclusion that she doesn't age but just keeps getting better. But then doing shows like this eight times a week would keep anyone in killer shape.
But I digress with my Rachel York fan club moment. The show is an absolute winner. It's one of those glorious throwbacks to a simpler time of musical theater and this production only does it credit. If you've never seen a production of "Anything Goes" this is the one to see. And if you have seen a production before, this one will blow it out of the water (pun intended). It's just plain "De-lovely"!