Theatre Review | Anything Goes: Cole Porter When He Pulls Out All the Stops

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

Just as winter threatened a comeback in New York, one of the warmest and sunniest of shows sailed into the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. Anything Goes – that toe-tappingest of classic book musicals, not seen on the Broadway stage since the 1987 Lincoln Center revival (of the 1934 original production) – brings musical genius, quippy comedy (soaked in liquor, which is quicker), gangsters, stowaways, multiple love affairs, numerous portal slammings, and polished performances to this non-stop high jinks on the high seas.

With the most glorious of scores by the most glorious Cole Porter – every song a gem! (six days later and I am still on a continuous loop of, “When grandmama whose age is eighty, In night clubs is getting matey with gigolos, Anything Goes”) – original book by P. G. Wodehouse & Guy Bolton, and Howard Lindsay & Russell Crouse, and a new book by Timothy Crouse & John Weidman, Anything Goes has two-time Tony™ Award winner Kathleen Marshall at the helm as director and choreographer for the multi-Tony™ Award winning Roundabout Theatre Company.

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

Tony™ Award winner Sutton Foster, that dynamic triple threat of a leading lady, plays “Reno Sweeney” and heads a stellar cast that includes Tony™ and Academy™ Award winner Joel Grey as “Moonface Martin,” five-time Tony™ Award-nominee John McMartin as “Elisha Whitney,” the lovely Laura Osnes as “Hope Harcourt,” the charming Colin Donnell as “Billy Crocker,” the adorable Adam Godley as “Lord Evelyn Oakleigh” (make sure to read his bio in the Playbill – even it’s adorable!), the man-eating Jessica Stone as “Erma,” the formidable Jessica Walter as “Evangeline Harcourt,” Broadway veteran Walter Charles as the “Captain,” and a red-hot chorus of other fine actors, singers and dancers.

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

The plot? Gotta minute? Setting sail on the S. S. American (with its ship-shape decks and swank Art Deco staterooms) is an oddball group of ocean-crossers who work at cross-purposes but eventually row together to achieve their hearts’ desires. Mix in a mismatched couple soon-to-be-married (a reticent young heiress and a – seemingly – uptight stiff of an English lord), the bride’s steamship of a mother, a young Wall Streeter pining over the bride-to-be (and who stows away to take his shot at winning her for his own), elaborate ruses to keep the young buck’s well-heeled boss from realizing that he is not back in the office where he belongs, gangsters and their molls hiding out, a brassy evangelist-turned-nightclub singer (who is jonesing for the Wall Streeter but ends up with I won’t tell you who), a Christian clergyman and his new Chinese gamblers-turned-converts, a little blackmail here and there, a missing Yorkie, and… Isn’t that enough?

With Cole Porter’s incomparable tunes (including “You’re the Top,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Easy to Love,” “It’s De-Lovely,” and the title song “Anything Goes”), some surprising new twists in vocal arrangements and orchestrations, seaworthy sets and lighting, beautiful voices, exuberant dancing, and witty, disarming dialogue – actually – it is absolutely enough! And more.

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

Now, this wouldn’t be Beauty News if I didn’t mention something about costumes, would it? Well, many are splendid (and you know that you are in for fun when the theatre ushers are dressed in nautical “crew” – I love, love, love that!). However, and maybe I am walking the plank here, but did someone take a wrong turn in the Clergy Disguise aisle? Poor Joel Grey. When he makes his entrance on deck, I had to laugh. Not at what was meant to be the expected joke of gangster “Moonface Martin” dressed as pious padre, but the gilded lily of a joke that is this costume. Unfortunately, Mr. Grey looked to me for all the world not so much a wise-guy “Father” on the lam, clutching his “violin” … as a dead ringer for Julie Andrews as Fraulein Maria, on her way to the Von Trapp family mansion, swinging her guitar case and singing up her swinging confidence. Mr. Grey is a brilliant, beloved performer – and what a delight to have this spry septuagenarian back onstage again – but the costume just seems to evoke an oddly burlesque nebbish from Austria, rather than a wacky Jimmy Cagney in religious drag.

And, finally, I would like to come back to John McMartin. He is a true treasure of the American stage. This consummate pro, and agile octogenarian, always brings his darling, loopy, superb timing as the quintessential WASP, in this case the perpetual Yale Man who sails through life with the relaxed certainty that he, and his class (not Britannia), rules the waves. Just keep your eye on Mr. McMartin when Sutton Foster slinks around him in the rousing “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” at the top of the second act. The smallest flick of his hand is a master class in elegant “stage business.” Somebody please give this delicious actor a long-deserved Tony™ already!

So, bottom line? They don’t make ’em like this anymore. A few personal quibbles aside, anytime you can get a cast like this onstage together, don’t even pass Go. Immediately, if not sooner, trade in your Choos for Capezios, Beauty News readers – and tap yourself all the way to the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.

Anything Goes is pure fun on Broadway, with a heart as big as the ocean. Don’t miss the boat!

Ticket Information:

Tickets are available by calling at 212.239.6200 / 800.432.7250 or online at Tickets can also be purchased at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre Box Office (124 West 43rd Street).

Roundabout Subscribers save up to 50% off of ticket prices and have access to special in-theatre events and perks. To become a Roundabout Subscriber, visit or call Roundabout Ticket Services at 212.719.1300 today.

Performance Schedule:

Anything Goes plays Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8:00PM, with a Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinee at 2:00PM.

KEYWORDS: Anything Goes, Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim Theatre, Roundabout Theatre Company, Kathleen Marshall, Sutton Foster, Joel Grey, John McMartin.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Subscribe to our Beauty News NYC Newsletter to receive the latest news, tips and happenings.