The first national tour of ANYTHING GOES kicked off over the weekend and is already proving itself to be a must-see show, playing to near capacity crowds. The cast and crew of the S.S. American stay in port through October 14th before sailing off to the next city. Make plans to pick up tickets if you haven't already!
ANYTHING GOES follows the madcap voyage of the passengers and crew of the S.S. American as they sail from New York to London in the 1930s. There's Reno Sweeney (Rachel York), a nightclub-singing evangelist, and Billy Crocker (Erich Bergen), a Wall Street broker-turned-stowaway. There's Moonface Martin (Fred Applegate), public enemy #13, and Erma (Joyce Chittick), his sailor-chasing sidekick. There's Hope Harcourt (Alex Finke), a beautiful young debutante, and Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Edward Staudenmayer), her English financé. These six passengers cross paths over and over again in expected and unexpected ways. Just when you think everything has calmed down, something happens to unleash more chaos.
Rachel York is a true triple threat of theatre, dazzling the audience with her singing, acting and dancing skills time and again. York portrays Reno as the schemer with a heart of gold, only wanting the best for herself and her friends. She's able to belt her sultry voice to the rafters on "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" and tap up a storm (appearing to barely break a sweat) in "ANYTHING GOES." Her smile will make you fall in love with her the moment she steps on stage.
Erich Bergen is a handsome and charming leading man. Equal parts smitten and frazzled, your heart goes out to Billy Crocker in his not-at-all thought out plan to win the hand of Hope Harcourt. Bergen's dashing good looks and smooth singing voice are hard to top, especially on songs like "Easy to Love" and "All Through the Night."
When it comes to comedic timing and delivery, Fred Applegate gives a master class on the subject as gangster Moonface Martin. Applegate's grandfatherly appearance and deadpan delivery make him a lovable gangster. Moon is quick with an idea to get him and his pals out of whatever new tricky spot they find themselves in. It's hard to decide if you should loathe him for his scheming or love him for his ingenuity.
Joyce Chittick and Edward Staudenmayer manage to steal almost every scene they appear in. Whether it's Erma chasing after a sailor to obtain his uniform for a disguise or Lord Evelyn's rousing tango moves in "The Gypsy In Me," you'll be hoping they return to the stage soon.
The score is filled with classic Cole Porter tunes that are instantly familiar: "I Get a Kick Out of You," "You're the Top," "It's De-Lovely" and "ANYTHING GOES," among others. Porter's songs blend seamlessly with the action on stage, rarely giving the feel of being stuck in the middle of a scene just because a song is needed. Comprised on 14 local musicians (and a few that travel with the show), the orchestra plays with aplomb. The instrumentation is loud and brassy or tender and gentle, but never overpowering.
Derek McLane's tri-level ship set is gorgeous. It's bright and open and allows the cast to be dynamic without being crowded or hidden. The smaller stateroom and brig pieces are decorated with details. The period costumes designed by the late Martin Pakledinaz add color and flair. The men are sharply dressed in sailor suits and tuxes while the women are dressed in glittery gowns and form-fitting skirts.
It's clear why director Kathleen Marshall won a Tony Award for the choreography of this show. While most all musicals include big, show-stopping numbers, it's rare to see a full-out tap number with the lead actress hoofing it right next to the ensemble members. "ANYTHING GOES" is an eight-minute-long performance that brings the audience to applause multiple times as the closing number of Act I. The dancers are tapping non-stop and don't sound the least bit tired when singing, not to mention the smiles that never leave their faces.