Friday, February 17, 2012
This is one helluva boat ride.
I'll start by making a distinction between the show (the actual musical with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, original book by Wodehouse, Bolton, Lindsay, and Crouse) and the production (directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshal with Rob Fisher as the music supervisor and vocal arranger).
The show isn't perfect. Most of the problems arise from the story and characters that feel a little insensitive in a modern world. The Chinese characters are the best example. Even though the book has been updated by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, the cliched nature of these characters made me anxious. But I get why the producers couldn't eliminate the characters from the story line. They're an integral part of the madcap cruise that proves Anything Goes.
There are also one or two songs that didn't live up to contemporary Broadway standards. Be Like the Blue Bird performed by Joel Gray as Moonface Martin felt forced and it wasn't just the performance. The gimmicky nature of the song feels, well, gimmicky.
However, that's not much to complain about. Because Cole Porter's songs are just plain amazing. The lyrics are dizzying to the point that many songs put today's best rappers to shame. Songs like You're the Top, I Get a Kick Out of You,and It's De-lovely sparkle with so much wit and delight you can't help but smile through the whole ordeal. And the songs live up to the shows name with references to sex, drugs, and scandal that would feel right at home on Entertainment Tonight!
Combine Porter's brilliance with a damn-near perfect production and you have a show-stopping delight. Sutton Foster as Reno Sweeney is spectacular. She's super sexy, looks fantastic in the shimmering, sparkling, revealing costumes, and can belt a show tune so big and bold it conjures up the likes of Ethyl Merman.
Bill English as Billy Crocker answers Foster with just enough charm to make you like him and just enough "bad boy" to make him desirable. Even the secondary characters whose roles are mostly caricatures rise above the nature of the people they play to deliver standout performances. Jessica Stone as Erma is delightfully slutty, particuarly when she's fighting off an army of suitors in the riotous number, Buddie, Beware.
Let's talk chorus lines. This show was made for flashy, showstopping chorus lines and Anything Goes doesn't disappoint. Kathleen Marshall's choreography reminds us how much fun it is to put a bunch of talented dancers on stage and give them something magical to do. And those dancers! I'm convinced that everything in life would be better with the addition of tap-dancing sailors.When I'm deliriously wealthy I intend to hire and entire crew of tap-dancing sailors to follow me around and make life spectacular.
There is plenty more I could talk about like Derek McLane's simple, iconic set design and Peter Kaczorowski's ingenious lighting design which helped transport the audience not just to a cruise, but to a cruise in a time and place that has unfortunately past. I loved Martin Pakledinaz's costumers with their crisp whites and endless rinestones. I don't know who's keep the costumes so pristine and crisp but they're doing one helluva job. Because at the opening of the show, everything was perfectly white, but after a night of dancing, many of those whites had blackened and wrinkled.
Anything Goes is pure Broadway fun with a brilliant streak of theatrical genius.