“Anything Goes,” the pièce de résistance of Cole Porter’s career, is big and bright and sparkling, but it begins in a dark martini lounge where gleaming bottles of spirits line the wall, illuminating the room.
“Can I get you another drink, Mr. Whitney?” the bartender asks his guest.
“Sure. Seven’s my limit,” the wealthy New Yorker replies.
Erich Bergen, who stars in this tale of love and mishap aboard a transoceanic liner, said “It takes a second for the audience to go along with it.”
“If the audience laughs,” Bergen said, “We know we’ve got them.”
They had them opening night at ASU Gammage, where a packed house responded readily to the show’s cheeky humor and jaunty music.
The show opened on Broadway in 1934, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter and a book by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse. Though Porter’s bawdy, avant-garde lyrics were among the more sexually explicit of the time, his complex rhymes and sophisticated music appealed to audiences.
After two movie renditions, the show went through multiple revivals, including a 1987 Broadway staging with a revised book by John Weidman and Timothy Crouse.
Kathleen Marshall’s 2011 version with Sutton Foster as Reno Sweeney and Joel Grey as Moonface Martin is the most recent. Marshall used Crouse and Weidman’s book, but added her own choreography. It was a hit and won Tony Awards for Leading Actress in a Musical, Best Choreography and Best Musical Revival. It closed on Broadway in July, but the national tour kicked off Oct. 2 in Cleveland. It is on stage in Tempe through Sunday.
The toe-tapping musical tells how stock-broker Billy Crocker (Bergen) finagles his way to matrimony with debutante Hope Harcourt (Alex Finke), who’s engaged to British nobleman Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (Edward Staudenmayer).
When the three find themselves aboard a London-bound ocean liner with nightclub singer Reno Sweeney (Rachel York) and a notorious gangster disguised as a clergyman (Fred Applegate), things get a bit topsy-turvy.
Hijinks by the boatload ensue, with Porter-eque innuendo and ribald humor aimed at religion and sexual mores.
Alice Gartell, in attendance opening night with her husband Chuck, wasn’t off-put, but she was not overly impressed either. “I think it’s clever and cute, but the show’s not as good as I had hoped. It doesn’t carry me away,” she said.
Her husband was impressed with the talent of the performers and the music. “I grew up with music like this and they have a great cast,” he said.
After seeing York's mesmerizing performance, no one could argue that. Though she is not a dancer, her stage presence and vocal talents are remarkable. The ensemble, featuring a pair of former Rockettes, is also top notch.
ASU senior Hillary Carneal was thrilled with the show. “It’s so good. It’s like watching an old movie,” she said.
Finke agrees. “Cole Porter’s music is phenomenal. The music and the lyrics are truly classics,” she said. “It’s a fun, silly show. It allows everyone to escape into another world and leave the theatre with a big smile on their face.”
IF YOU GO
What: ‘Anything Goes’
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17; 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18.
Where: ASU Gammage, 1200 S. Forest Ave., Tempe.
Information: (480) 965-3434 or www.asugammage.com.
Contact writer: (480) 898-5629 or email@example.com