April 20, 2011


More articles by »
Written by: Mitch Salem
Tags: , , , , ,


Once there was a time when Broadway musicals didn’t have to say anything about society, politics, art, literature, or really much of anything.  They were exercises in style, excuses for glamorous people to get up on stage in fancy costumes and sing tuneful, ingenious songs while dancing up a storm.  That’s the world of ANYTHING GOES, and it’s a lovely place to spend an evening.  The show started life in 1934 with a book by P.G. Wodehouse, Guy Bolton, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, and had a celebrated revival at Lincoln Center in 1987 with its book revised by John Weidman, who again revised it (this time with Timothy Crouse) for the current revival.  In all versions, though, the book is far less important than the score, by the legendary Cole Porter, which features such toe-tapping classics as “You’re the Top,” “De-Lovely,” “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” “I Get A Kick Out of You,” and the title song.  The less said about the plot the better, but for those who feel the need for some narrative framework, it’s all set largely on an ocean liner on its way from New York to London, populated with British Lords, second-rate gangsters, a financier who’s missing his eyeglasses, and the redoubtable nightclub star Reno Sweeney, plus the inevitable young couple in love who are being kept apart by her need for a fortune–and did I mention the Chinese gamblers?  No matter.  What counts are those songs, and the thrilling direction and choreography by Kathleen Marshall.  And the performers, who are led triumphantly by Sutton Foster as Reno Sweeney.  Foster is following in the deepest of Broadway footsteps, taking on a role that was originated by Ethel Merman and seized by the throat in 1987 by Patti LuPone; she may not have the kind of voice that shakes loose the lighting fixtures like her predecessors, but once the dancing starts late in Act I, she taps them both off the figurative stage (and even though the storyline is just a pretext, it’s nice that Foster makes more dramatic sense in the part than LuPone and probably Merman did).  The note-perfect supporting cast includes Colin Donnell and Laura Osnes as the ingenues, Jessica Stone as the tough-talking gangster’s moll, and an extraordinary collection of old pros in Jessica Walter, John McMartin (co-star of the original Broadway Sweet Charity), and Joel Grey, creator of the M.C. in Cabaret. The lovely ship settings are by Derek McLane; the glittering costumes by Martin Pakledinaz.  Anything Goes is a reminder of just how much fun pure musical craft and skill–and talent–can be.  (Stephen Sondheim Theatre)


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."