Thursday, September 22, 2011

Anything Goes

[This is a guest review by Lisa.]

I know Sutton Foster was miscast as Reno Sweeney, but I just can’t bring myself to care. She sings and dances the crap out of Anything Goes, and I’d happily watch her do it again and again. I had wanted to see this show since the moment it was announced, so I was ecstatic when theatre buddy Mel said she was willing to pony up for the good seats. If you can’t tell, I was predisposed to like this show. And from the opening strains of the overture I had a smile on my face that didn’t leave until long after the show ended. (It probably disappeared during the less-uplifting Follies, which we saw that evening.)

There are plot twists, mistaken identities, and hijinks all over the place on the way to a typical everything-works-out happy ending. While Billy is trying to woo Hope from Lord Evelyn, Lord Evelyn becomes enthralled with Reno, who is trying to help Billy woo Hope. Meanwhile Hope’s mother Evangeline is being pursued by Billy’s boss Eli Whitney, but she is busy trying to talk Hope into marry Lord Evelyn. In spite of all of the confusion it’s not actually that hard to follow the plot, and in this Cole Porter show the plot is hardly the point anyway.

As Mel has already stated, when it comes to sexy and edgy, Sutton Foster comes across as neither. She’s cute as a button and looks like she is having the time of her life on stage. Still, she lacks the edge that evangelist turned nightclub singer Reno should have. She was too happy in the opening number, smiling her way through the beginning of I Get A Kick Out of You right after Billy Crocker tells her doesn’t really get a such a kick out of her (as anything more than a friend--but what great friends they are). And I expected more from the seductive Blow Gabriel Blow at the top of Act II. But all of that somehow doesn’t matter. Plus, the title number was AMAZING: Sutton Foster and the rest of the cast sang, danced, and tapped their asses off in a very extended and much appreciated version of the song Anything Goes.

I apparently saw Colin Donnell in the forgettable Johnny Baseball at the A.R.T. last year, and now I’m sad I don’t remember it because his performance in Anything Goes is anything but forgettable. He is absolutely charming as stow-away Billy Crocker who is trying to romance Hope Harcourt out from under Lord Evelyn Oakleigh while pretending to be Public Enemy Number One, all the while avoiding his boss, who thinks he is back in New York. His numbers with Laura Osnes as Hope Hartcourt (Easy to Love, It’s De-lovely, and All Through the Night) are as de-lightful and sweet as his number with Sutton Foster (You’re the Top) is fun. Laura Osnes moves and sings like a Disney princess.

Jessica Stone as Erma is all sass and sexy fun as the not-so-faithful girlfriend of the true Public Enemy Number One and travel companion of Moonface Martin, aka Public Enemy Number Thirteen, in disguise as a minister. Moonface is more caricature than character, but I don’t know if that’s how the character is written or directed or both. In any case, Joel Grey is exceedingly endearing in his portrayal of the hapless guy.

Adam Godley is hilarious as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, the fiance of Hope Harcourt with the secret past who would rather be with Reno. The Gypsy in Me was seriously goofy. John McMartin and new-to-the-show Kelly Bishop as Eli Whitney and Evangeline Harcourt were well cast, although I’d like to see Bishop in something where she has more to do (I loved her as Grandma on the Gilmore Girls). The rest of the ensemble was equally impressive and enjoyable to watch.

This show is just pure fun. Porter has a way with words that makes me giddy and I have happily integrated this cast recording into my rotation of albums I listen to frequently. Kathleen Marshall’s choreography is jaw-droppingly spectacular. Whether there are two people on stage or twenty, the dancing is phenomenal. The costumes by Martin Pakledinaz are wonderful, and I think Foster has more gorgeous outfits for a two-and-a-half-hour show than I would actually take with me on a week-long cruise.

All in all I had a blast at this show and highly recommend going to see Anything Goes.

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