Review: ANYTHING GOES Starring Sutton Foster Hits the Big Screen

Foster won a Tony playing the role of Reno Sweeney on Broadway in 2011, and in 2021, returned to the role at the Barbican Theatre in London.

By: Mar. 23, 2022
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Review: ANYTHING GOES Starring Sutton Foster Hits the Big Screen

The buzz on the internet about Sutton Foster playing Marian the Librarian in the latest Music Man revival was polarizing to say the least, but NO ONE can claim that Sutton Foster wasn't born to play Reno Sweeney in the classic Cole Porter musical farce, Anything Goes. Foster won a Tony playing the role on Broadway in 2011, and in 2021, returned to the role at the Barbican Theatre in London, belting out standards like the title number, "I Get A Kick Out Of You", and the famous list song, "You're The Top". Trafalgar Entertainment and Stage2view filmed the cast during the London run and will now air the presentation in American movie theaters for two nights.

Aboard a luxury cruise liner during the Great Depression, the aristocracy and the riffraff co-mingle. A Wall Street assistant, Billy (Samuel Edwards), stows away when he discovers his true love Hope (Nicole-Lily Baisden) is to be engaged to an English lord (Haydn Oakley) and attempts to disrupt the marriage that only Hope's mother seems to want. Billy must hide from the crew, as well as his boss, who is also onboard. Through typical farcical complications, Billy is mistakenly identified as Public Enemy #1, Snake Eyes Johnson. Once the ship discovers they have no celebrities to promote, they canonize Billy -- believing he's the hottest criminal in the country -- and real gangster Moonface Martin (Robert Lindsay). Overseeing the chaos is sleek, slick evangelist Reno Sweeney (Foster) and her four scantily clad "angels."

The original 1934 musical by Porter had its book and score overhauled for a hit 1987 Lincoln Center revival starring Patti LuPone. Porter songs from other shows, like "Friendship" and "It's De-lovely", were interpolated into the score, along with a new book by Timothy Crouse & John Weidman. This 1987 script has been utilized for the latest production, and there are still insurmountable issues. Act One plods along meanderingly, making the show's star, Reno, a secondary passenger in her own vehicle. The Asian culture appropriation doesn't hold water in modern times, and the audience cares about the principal love interests, Billy and Hope, as much as they would hot soup in the Sahara Desert. The audiences adore Reno and Moonface, the most enjoyable characters, but the first act gives them few activities. Other than the exhilarating Act One Finale, Reno sings two love songs to a man who is cold to her advances and obviously madly in love with someone else. Act Two improves greatly with a rousing ''Blow Gabriel Blow'' and more hijinks for both Moonface and Reno.

Kathleen Marshall, who directed and choreographed the '11 Broadway production, repeats her chores here - and in Act One, chore is the right word. She doesn't keep the pace up required for farce and the musical numbers are unimaginative and stagnant - the lone exception being the titular toe-tapper, which benefits greatly from having its Reno front and center during the big dance sequence. It's ''Blow Gabriel Blow'' that blows the roof off the theater: Marshall's choreography here is highly inventive, the entire cast fills the stage with movement, and at its center, Foster chucks every note into the rafters like a barrage of well-tuned boulders.

Since her star-making debut in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Foster has been a triple threat: a solid singer, an enthusiastic tapper, and a sly comedienne. All are on full display in Anything Goes. She makes performing seem effortless, and unlike both Ethel Merman (the original 1934 Reno) and Patti LuPone, she can dance as well, if not better, than the ensemble. Lindsay, who won a Tony in 1987 for the surprise hit Me And My Girl, finds humor even when it's not in the text and makes every moment he's on stage a lethal dose of hilarity. Edwards has a fantastic voice but is bland as Billy. His love interest, Baisden, also does not sparkle in her role. Of the supporting players, both Oakley, as the crusty but loveable lord, and Carly Mercedes Dyer, as a brassy gangster's moll, are noteworthy comedians.

The filming itself is well directed by Ross MacGibbon, keeping the camera where the action lies and allowing the staging to be fully absorbed by the movie theater audience.

The filmed production will air at 700 movie screens throughout theaters in the United States on Sunday, March 27 and Wednesday, March 30. Tickets are on sale now at anythinggoesmusicalcinema.com.

Photo by Tristram Kenton



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