By John Soltes
Watching the new Broadway revival of the classic Cole Porter musical, Anything Goes, is like floating on Cloud 9. The Roundabout Theatre Company show will undoubtedly leave a spring in your step and a smile on your face.
This is in no small part thanks to its two leading ladies: Sutton Foster, who plays cruise boat singer Reno Sweeney, and the stunningly skillful Kathleen Marshall, who directs and choreographs. These two women seem like a match made in musical heaven. Their output is breathtaking to watch, and although the two-act musical shows its age a bit, the enjoyable song-and-dance numbers always keep things positive and piping along.
Rounding out the uniformly superior cast is Joel Grey as Moonface Martin, a two-bit criminal who has slipped on board the cruise ship in the guise of a Christian missionary, and John McMartin, a lovable rich man still looking for love in his later years. Add in Colin Donnell as Billy Crocker, a hopeless romantic, and Laura Osnes as Hope Harcourt, the apple in his eye, and you’ve got a musical comedy that feels refreshingly classic (and, yes, that oxymoron is intentional). Jessica Walter, of Arrested Development fame, even shows up as Hope’s jewelry-loving mother.
The scenes take place on Derek McLane’s two-tier set, which brings to life the decks and inner rooms of the S.S. American, set for sail from New York City to England. Besides the passing seagulls, there is love in the air. Reno loves Billy. Billy loves Hope. And the circuitous workings of Cupid continue and continue.
The story is convenient and predictable, like all the great musicals from the bygone era of the early 20th century. But Anything Goes is aided by a superlative score with some of the most recognizable Porter classics (and a few more added in for good measure).
There’s “I Get A Kick Out of You,” plus “De-Lovely.” The title theme is the most rousing number, closing out Act I and simply setting the audience on fire. It’s in the big musical numbers that Anything Goes excels. Marshall has an uncanny ability of making toe-tapping feet work in brilliant unity. Thankfully, she lets the songs dominate, and Foster is more than able to sell them with her fine vocals and impressive dancing.
Grey is able to gather some hearty laughs as his character stumbles through one escape route after another. He gets a bit lost in the show because when the attention is pulled away from the singing and dancing, the musical loses its footing. But thankfully these asides never get in the way of the big Broadway entertainment that Marshall focuses on.
Anything Goes is a voyage worth taking.
A production from the Roundabout Theatre Company
Directed by Kathleen Marshall
Starring Sutton Foster, Joel Grey, John McMartin, Jessica Walter and Colin Donnell
Playing at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre at 124 W. 43rd St. in New York City.
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Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Bubble score: 3.5 out of 4