What can you say about perfection? Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of "Anything Goes" is such a giddy, goofy, giggly experience, it's almost impossible to describe. But I'll try. Imagine eating all the chocolates you want without getting full, or watching all your favorite Hollywood musicals on TCM without suffering from camp overload.
ANYTHING GOES Broadway Reviews
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Why, one wonders, should Roundabout see fit to trot out "Anything Goes," the frequently produced 1934 musical chestnut? Turns out it has a compelling reason: Sutton Foster. She doesn't just deliver those Cole Porter hits, she knocks 'em out of the park. Joel Grey gives his happiest performance in years as Public Enemy #13, and director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall has a field day, outdoing herself with several rousing dance numbers. This new "Anything Goes" is a daffy, shipshape romp.
At the same time, with no LuPone-prone camp to her capers, Foster stars - yet generously blends - with the rest of the assured cast. As the lovelorn Billy Foster, Donnell suggests a somewhat more compact Jon Hamm as a much less agonized Don Draper. Laura Osnes brings a crystalline grace to the role of debutante Hope Harcourt, pressured by her status-conscious mother (hooray for Jessica Walter) to marry into class - and money. Mama's quarry, the audience knows, is Lord Oakleigh, a prime specimen of an upper-class twit, all foppish, repressed postures. What the audience doesn't know is that British theater regular Adam Godley will, by the time he busts loose with Foster in 'The Gypsy in Me,' steal his crucial bit of the show and utterly delight the cheering house with his brilliant comic timing.
Others perfectly in tune with the 1930s period include frisky John McMartin as a tipsy tycoon, a properly ripping Adam Godley as a British nobleman (who tears into “The Gypsy in Me” hilariously) and cutie-patootie Jessica Stone as the gun-moll who slays most of the crew. Speaking of whom, the ensemble is uniformly fleet in performance and sweet both to the eye and ear. Costume designer Martin Pakledinaz dresses everyone beautifully according to their characters and physical types. (Loved Reno’s perky halo hat worn when she boarded the boat!)
The new production of the Cole Porter classic "Anything Goes" sailed onto Broadway last night, and it's as cool and intoxicating as a fresh ocean breeze. Credit two bright talents for such a snazzy, jazzy affair: Sutton Foster, who stars as the saucy singing evangelist Reno Sweeney, and director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall, who's at the helm of this buoyantly dance-happy production.
This Reno, and maybe Foster herself, isn't afraid to be a tad uncomfortable playing something she's not: She's not made of brass and doesn't try to be, and she doesn't feel compelled to kick every burnished quip through the goalposts. (Though her delivery is unerringly solid: she's a Swiss watch with a swing hand.)
Both goofy and sexy, shruggingly insouciant and rigorously polished, Ms. Foster's performance embodies the essence of escapist entertainment in the 1930s, when hard times called for bold smiles, tough wisecracks and defiant fantasies of over-the-top opulence...Her pleasure in her material creates a sheen that illuminates everyone around her. Mr. Donnell, Mr. Grey and Mr. Godley are never better than in their duets with Ms. Foster, energetic competitions in putting over some of Porter's cleverest lyrics.
Foster has a unique comic presence. It's not intended as a slight to say there's nothing especially ladylike about her. With her loping gait and manly stance, she's no delicate flower, but her leggy physique and chameleon-like features allow her to vamp, camp and clown with equal conviction. She also has the rare distinction of striking up real chemistry with every co-star...The girl's definitely got it and this gorgeously sung, buoyantly staged show is bliss.
Bathed in lush lavender lights it's all very inviting up there. Director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall completes the picture with her knockout staging of the two biggest numbers "Anything Goes" and "Blow Gabriel Blow" featuring some fancy dancing from her star. My favorites though were the deliciously delightful duets, "You're The Top" and "It's De-Lovely."
But the Tony-winning actress, who by the way looks smashing in all those silky and sparkly costumes by Martin Pakledinaz, is the very definition of a Broadway triple threat. And she shows it all off in the title song, which closes the first act with a cascade of tapping feet reminiscent of "42nd Street." After what feels like 10 minutes of tap dancing, you imagine there's just no way that Foster, leading the pack, can still belt out the rest of the song. But she manages it...Happily, the real star here is Cole Porter and his wonderful music and lyrics.
I'll be crucified for saying this, but Sutton Foster is a wee bit miscast as Reno Sweeney. Unlike Merman and LuPone before her, she doesn't summon hard-boiled brassiness with ease. But Sutton's such a pro, with tons of spunk and a great deadpan, and on the numbers she soars and makes the mismatch less of a world crisis.
Foster wins us over, through talent and sheer force of will. But it's more a qualified victory than an outright seduction...The younger performers also shine. As the debutante Hope Harcourt, Laura Osnes looks stunning and sings fetchingly; as Reno's old buddy Billy Crocker - in love with Hope, who is engaged to a wealthy Englishman - Colin Donnell proves a charming and comically nimble romantic lead. So despite a leading lady who isn't a natural fit - and to some extent, because of her joyful commitment -Anything Goes offers its share of delightful, de-lovely moments.
Not everyone in the large supporting cast is up to her level. Colin Donnell is bland as Billy Crocker, the young stockbroker who stows aboard the ship to pursue Hope Harcourt (Laura Osnes), the pretty debutante with whom he’s fallen hopelessly in love; Joel Grey milks his cutesy shtick too shamelessly as the gangster Moonface Martin; and Jessica Martin is largely wasted as Hope’s gold-digging mother.
Kathleen Marshall's lavish production occasionally feels labored. But for the most part, to quote one of the musical's most famous lyrics, "it's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely." Her choreography manages to turn almost every production number into a showstopper. Foster lacks the rough-and-tough sex appeal to credibly portray Reno, but she handles the belting, dancing and comedy bits with such perfection that you hardly care.
Below the title, things start looking up. Colin Donnell is a deft, full-voiced and romantically persuasive Billy; as Hope, the pretty young lady he pines for, Laura Osnes knows how to give an ingenue some spine. The gangling Adam Godley nearly steals the show as her befuddled British fiancé—he’s a terrific comic dancer—and Arrested Development’s Jessica Walter is enjoyably tart as her mother. Rounding out the cast with aplomb are Jessica Stone as a sailor-friendly floozy and the invaluable John McMartin as a perpetually sloshed millionaire.
Kathleen Marshall's revival for the Roundabout, which opened on Broadway last night, is like one of those old Hollywood movies with Bette Davis as a frumpy schoolteacher: You don't really buy it, but the star's still fun to watch.
Ms. Marshall, who did so well by "The Pajama Game" and "Wonderful Town," takes a while to get going this time around, perhaps because the book is stale..."Anything Goes" has the air of a safe option, a risk-free show designed to take the minimum number of chances and please the maximum number of people. That it succeeds in the latter goal is mainly due to Ms. Foster (and, of course, Cole Porter). Her Reno Sweeney is definitely worth the price of two tickets.
Ethel Merman used to say that "Anything Goes" was about "a girl on a boat." And that's pretty much the whole deal, except for the other girls, the guys and the fact that the boat is a deco ocean liner stocked with nonstop Cole Porter standards, standard-issue mistaken-identity convolutions and the usual bunch of '30s musical-comedy mugs...Bottom Line: By-the-numbers revival, but the numbers are prime.
[Sutton Foster] generated more heat being wooed by an ogre in "Shrek" than she does here. With her eyes constantly darting around as if unsure of her place on the stage, Foster seems uncharacteristically out of sync both physically and vocally with her partners...Timothy Crouse and John Weidman's re-revised book (first undertaken for the Lincoln Center production) turns the silly original into a dopey groaner. And don't worry: Cheeky survives, even if little else does.
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