The perfect Broadway musical production may not exist, but the national touring company of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” comes mighty darn close. Cast, designs, direction and choreography meld seamlessly into an energetic, spirits-lifting entertainment exhibiting professionalism at its highest.
Much of the credit goes to director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall, whose 2011 Broadway production won the Tony Award for best revival. Although much about the show has been changed since the 1934 original (songs added from other Porter shows, major dialog rewrites), Marshall’s scintillating version vividly evokes the glamour and pizzazz of a 1930’s Fred-and-Ginger world.
Timothy Crouse and John Weidman’s script revision for this “Anything Goes” bolsters the humor and better justifies the plot about a famous nightclub singer pursuing a lowly office boy who’s in love with a debutante who’s marrying a stuffy English nobleman. There’s also a gangster and his moll hiding from the FBI and a tippling millionaire chasing the haughty debutante’s mother.
But all that is just framework for Porter masterpieces such as “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top” and “It’s De-Lovely,” as well as the exhilarating tap dance finale of Act I and the rousing production number “Blow, Gabriel Blow” in Act II. Marshall fills out many songs with sophisticated dance interludes, from dreamy to steamy, keeping the show varied and engaging throughout.
Derek McLane’s spiffy shipboard setting, beautifully lighted by Howell Binkley with ever-changing colors, makes a perfect backdrop for Martin Pakledinaz’s stunning period costumes. Jay Alger’s jazzy orchestra keeps the proceedings revved up but thankfully never overpowers the singers.
The entire cast exemplifies what Broadway musical performance should be, but towering above all is Rachel York’s funny, sexy nightclub singer Reno Sweeney. She plays the Mae West-like character with expertly timed zingers, hall-filling vocals and untiring dance routines, a joy to watch at every turn.
Josh Franklin makes office boy Billy charming in his pursuit of debutante Hope, sweetly portrayed by Alex Finke. Much comic relief comes from Fred Applegate’s sly Moonface (Public Enemy #13) and Joyce Chittick’s kewpie doll sidekick Erma.
Although “Anything Goes” might not appeal to those seeking witches turning good or musicians unable to pay rent, those who go will likely find themselves smiling throughout and cheering at performance’s end.