Thursday, April 14, 2011
New York, April 2011 - Day One, "Anything Goes"
In 1934, when Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" was first produced, the world was in the midst of a depression and people looked to Broadway as a place where they could forget their troubles for a couple of hours. In 2011, we have Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, pirates, tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns, a still-shaky economy, a crazed climate, billionaires becoming birthers, John Kyl telling bald-faced lies on the floor of the Senate and then having a spokesperson say his comments were "not intended to be a factual statement"...I think we could use a little getaway, too.
And the new production of the show, now playing at the Stephen Sondheim Theater is the perfect escape. There are some who confuse humor with wit. No matter, "Anything Goes" has plenty of both and dispenses them liberally. The sets are big and bright and wonderfully deco, the costumes elegant and flashy and fun and the cast -- from Broadway superstar Sutton Foster and veterans Joel Grey, John McMartin and Jessica Walter, all the way down to the excellent chorus -- is brilliant. Adam Godley has all kinds of comic chops and Jessica Stone does an adorable moll.
Then there are the songs: "I Get a Kick Out Of You," "Anything Goes," "You're The Top," "It's De-Lovely" and "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" are all standards for a reason.
But every aspect of this production is first-rate, and for this, credit must go to director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall and musical director Rob Fisher.
Set on an ocean liner crossing from New York to London, the show is like a Shakespearean comedy, with lovers kept apart but finally reunited, ridiculous disguises and mind-boggling misapprehensions. Like Shakespeare, "Anything Goes" can feel very old-fashioned -- guests mingle on board until it's time to sail, and passport control is a little different in the TSA era -- yet despite how clunky the story can be (be prepared to forgive a lot of silliness and throw plausibility overboard) like Shakespeare, the underlying artistry reveals itself in a timeless contemporaneity. Book writers P.G. Wodehouse, et al. had a lot of fun poking at the sanctimonious nature of the clergy and celebrity culture. The same targets are just as vulnerable today. A clerical collar here is always a disguise -- either a way to hide from authorities or fool the faithful. And like some of today's urban culture, the gangster is the biggest celebrity of all.
There are too many ways to praise this production, but only one way to see it -- set sail for 43rd Street and a 2.5 hour voyage of escape. It's OK. You've earned it. We all have.