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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 25 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 43
Set sail for a good time - Latest Broadway revival of Anything Goes cruises into Seattle
Arts & Entertainment
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Set sail for a good time - Latest Broadway revival of Anything Goes cruises into Seattle

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

ANYTHING GOES
5TH AVENUE THEATRE
Through November 3


The 5th Avenue Theatre currently presents the classic musical Anything Goes. The storyline is a pure musical comedy farce of mistaken identities, mixed-up lovers, and complete silliness that brings together an excellent cast of notable Broadway names and 5th Avenue favorites. Set against one of Cole Porter's most beloved scores, this musical consists of many favorites easily recognized. The 5th Avenue does its best by showcasing each and every one of them.

The story is fluff but madcap fun entertainment. A cruise ship is leaving New York for London, and the passenger list includes everyone from debutante to petty criminal and everything in between. Billy Crocker is a Wall Street broker who stows away on board hoping to rekindling a love affair with debutante Hope Harcourt. The problem is that Hope is engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, thinking that his money will save her family from ruin. Billy's longtime friend Reno Sweeney (a performing evangelist) is on board, sharing an unrequited love for him, and the criminal Moonface Martin (Public Enemy #13) is disguised as a minister along with Erma, his ever-lustful sidekick. When Billy is mistaken for Snake-Eyes Johnson (Public Enemy #1) the shallow passengers hail him as being a celebrity, causing even further problems for the star-crossed lovers.

The male lead, Billy Crocker, is played by Josh Franklin, and it is easy to see why he was cast in the part. He's a handsome man with a good singing voice and stage presence. The character is likable and the audience cheers him on from the beginning. Franklin's voice does well with the Porter songs, especially with the double-entendre lyrics of 'You're the Top' or the heartfelt ballad 'Easy to Love.' Moonface (played by Fred Applegate) is the lovable gangster who is sentimental at heart but wants to appear ruthless. His timing is well-done, especially when playing with his sidekick, Erma (Joyce Chittick). Chittick should be arrested for stealing every scene she performs. Her character is so endearing that the audience, along with most of the sailors on board, want to take her home (though for different reasons).

The main character from the very beginning of the show is Reno Sweeney, played by Broadway veteran Rachel York. Although she uses an accent that makes her sound like a sneering Mae West, the moment she opens her mouth to sing it is easy to see why she gets top billing. Her voice is strong and clear, and she can handle the beautiful Cole Porter music with ease. In two of the big production numbers, 'Anything Goes' and 'Blow, Gabriel, Blow,' York's voice projects clear and loud to the far rafters of the house with ease and grace. She then demonstrates one of her other talents, leading the entire cast in two big tap-dancing numbers that will have the audience thundering with applause.

DAZZLING DANCE
Director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall (as well as dance captain Sean McKnight) definitely need to be applauded for their work. The dance numbers, especially the tap dancing, in this show are as much a part of it as any cast member. This is not just one or two good dancers surrounded by a cast cheering them on - this is an entire cast performing as one dancing unit. These are big dance numbers and they are done very well.

Anything Goes has been a consistently morphing musical. There are four different versions of the script, with the original by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse subsequently heavily rewritten by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Originally starring Ethel Merman, the show opened on Broadway in November 1934 and ran for 420 performances. The revival had new characters and added songs (by Porter, despite his death in 1964) and opened on Broadway on September 11, 1987 (starring Patti LuPone), running for 784 performances. This production was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning three, including Best Revival and Best Choreography. A special one-night revival featuring the 1987 cast took place at Lincoln Center on April 1, 2002. In 2011 the musical was once again revived on Broadway, this time starring Sutton Foster. This latest incarnation likewise was nominated for nine Tony Awards and won three, including Best Revival and Best Actress.

The original 1936 film of Anything Goes stars Ethel Merman and Bing Crosby as Reno and Billy. A made-for-TV version appeared in 1956, once again starring Merman as Reno, but this time with Frank Sinatra as Billy (renamed Harry Dane) and Bert Lahr as Moonface. Major plot differences occur in the second half, rumored to have been caused by clashes between Merman and Sinatra.

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