BWW Reviews: Climb Aboard Bass Concert Hall's ANYTHING GOES Before it Says Bon Voyage
In a little town known as New York City, on a tiny street known as Broadway, the Roundabout Theatre Company took the 1930's Cole Porter classic Anything Goes and revived it on the Great White Way. Starring Tony Winner (soon to be two time Tony Winner) Sutton Foster as Reno Sweeney, Broadway's sweetheart Laura Osnes in the role of Hope Harcourt, and the legendary Joel Grey as Moonface Martin. The show went on to win the 2011 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, awarded Foster her second Tony, and also took home the prize for Best Choreography before closing in July 2012.
A bit later, the award-winning revival hit the road in the U.S. national tour, surprisingly (coming from someone who saw the revival on Broadway) rivaling its New York counterpart.
Anything Goes embodies everything you could possible think of when you think classic Broadway. Lavish costumes, impressively long dance numbers, waltzing, tap dance, showstopping numbers, and a simple yet lighthearted and comedic storyline are just part of the reason this musical has become a favorite over the last 80 years. Taking place aboard an ocean liner bound for London, it follows the love story of debutante Hope Harcourt, betrothed against her wishes to Englishmen Lord Evelyn Oakley, and Wall Street businessman Billy Crocker, who, in turn, is in love with Hope. However, Reno Sweeney, an impressive nightclub singer and performer with a taste for adventure and spunk, also has her on Billy (despite his protestations). Public Enemy #13 Moonface Martin boards with his accomplice Erma, in addition to millionaire Elisha Whitney, who has his eye set on Hope's golddigging and somewhat naïve mother, Evangeline Harcourt. With a mixture of romance and comedy, the storyline follows the humorous yet tangled web of love and deception that follows the passengers aboard.
Though it's hard to rival the famous Sutton Foster (especially to a fan that saw her in the original), Emma Stratton's Reno Sweeney came remarkably close. Stratton played the cheeky Sweeney effortlessly, allowing the audience to quickly fall in love with her as she carried the production with obvious ease, endearing spunk, obvious chemistry, and contagious energy. With an undeniable Broadway, powerhouse voice and notable dance skills to match, Stratton was an absolutely joy to watch onstage. Her rendition of the title song garnered the most applause, cheers, and smiles of the night- all deservedly so.
Dennis Setteducati played a captivating and charming Moonface Martin to Stratton's Sweeney. Though portraying an escaped mobster undercover on the ocean liner, Setteducati's undeniable wit, comedic timing, and can't-quite-put-your-finger-on-it pizazz easily reeled the audience in. "Be Like the Bluebird," and his duet with Stratton, "Friendship," were obvious favorites of the evening.
Brian Krinsky and Rachelle Rose Clark played the will they-won't they star crossed lovers Billy Crocker and Hope Harcourt. Both, with their impressive vocals and choreography together, resulted in a delightful (and delicious, and delovely...) chemistry between the two onstage. While, admittedly, the believability of the acting was a bit forced (Clark's Harcourt seemed to play up the naivety a bit too melodramatically, and, while Krinsky's comedic timing was on point, I wanted to see a bit more character development), the two successfully garnered the audience's sympathy and delight.
Kathleen Marshall's stunning choreography is the clear favorite of the production. Company-wide tap dancing (notable the unbelievably impressive dance break in the title song immediately preceding intermission), beautiful waltzes, and flashy jazz numbers ("Blow Gabriel Blow was another showstopper) keep the show energetic, flashy, and without a doubt "old Broadway (in the best way." Martin Pakledinaz's sparkling and extravagant costumes compliment both the characters and the choreography, and keep the audiences' eyes glued to the stage.
While it seems like Anything Goes with today's national tours, this production is without a doubt a carbon copy of the award winning revival production. Excellently cast performers, complimented with classic numbers (Billy and Reno's "You're the Top being a high point of the show, as well), beautiful costumes, and eye catching choreography thankfully preserved Kathleen Marshall's astounding show, recreating the classic for those who have loved it from the beginning, and inviting a new generation to climb aboard. Any fan of Broadway, Cole Porter, or just a great night at the theatre should get to Bass before Anything Goes says Bon Voyage.
Anything Goes runs at Bass Concert Hall through December 14th. Tickets can be purchased for the Texas Performing Arts/ Broadway in Austin production at texasperformingarts.org.