"Anything Goes" Underwhelmed Me...So It Goes

One item to cross off the bucket list…with seeing Anything Goes a few weeks back, I saw every musical, whether on Broadway for three weeks or still currently running, that opened in the last spring season. If you are thinking, “What took you so long?”, just shut it…as much as I love a wide variety of musicals, take into consideration the expenses and my 90 minute commute to Manhattan. Combine that with Sutton Foster’s (and a little bit of Joel Grey’s) erratic scheduling the last few months, it was hard to get me to see this show, let alone be excited for it. Once Anything Goes secured the Best Revival and Best Leading Actress in a Musical Tony awards, I knew that the show was not going anywhere so fast and I would see it eventually.

Now that I did, I am surprised to say that I was pretty disappointed. I know some of you caught my last radio show where I, unintentionally, slammed the fu** out of it. Let that be a lesson to all of you that sometimes having no filter and being pretty candid about everything that goes on inside my head is not always a lovably, fabulous thing.

But I will stick to my opinion, which is clearly contrary to the masses. My only association with Anything Goes prior to this revival is the score, which admittedly, I am quite fond of. The plot remains to be the same ole song and dance. Billy Crocker is in love with Hope Harcourt, whom is in a lifeless/forced engagement with Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Public Enemy #13 Moonface Martin and his partner-in-crime Erma are on the run. Reno Sweeney, a nightclub owner, is…well, she is just there. Everyone winds up aboard the S.S American sailing from New York to London…and for some unexplained reason, everyone ends up married.

I find the general storyline to be really fun and engaging in that classic musical sort of way. Light on depth, big on pizzazz revolving around the most standard of romance-based storylines: star-crossed lovers. But the show does not really live up to that idea. For one, Reno Sweeney somehow is the lead who pops up for a flashy, up-tempo number every now and then. Each supporting character gets a plotline or an expendable scene for some reason…basically, the main storyline of Billy and Hope just gets diverted from in as many ways as possible. I disapprove; the actually romance, with a little Moonface/Reno thrown in, could carry the production enough as it is. There was editing in the 1930’s, right? Or was that idea considered too post-modern for that time?

On top of that, all of the good, fun numbers are all relegated to the first act. I have a soft spot for “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “You’re the Top”; they are just great karaoke-faire duets. “It’s De-Lovely” is a beautiful number and the accompanying dancing is a knockout. As far as the show’s title number…

First off – and this is pretty much a criticism for about half of the numbers – the staging is an afterthought and some are to the point of being awful. Seriously; when the opening notes of “Anything Goes” started, I thought, “where the HELL did that come from?” and not in a good way. I get it; I really do…classic musicals use its impressive belting/dancing and costumes/stage/lighting to compensate from the lackadaisical writing and deliver on the promise of SPECTACLE! But still…that is not going to fly over my head without a second glance when each number was staged even worse then the number before it.

The number is competently performed and impressive…but bitch please, the number lasts over seven minutes and gets old real fast. Also, for a show pitched as a tap extravaganza in a 42nd street mold, the tap dancing is only in the “Anything Goes” number and the finale.

"What are we doing in this show Reno?"
"Who knows...Anything Goes!"
But up until intermission, I was enjoying the show and pretty into it. Then the second act began and the entire show falls apart. All the heart of the storyline between Billy and Hope, as well as the Reno/Moonface shenanigans, were mostly jettisoned off for a whole lot of nothing and irrelevance. Evidence to the stand please…

There is ”Be Like a Bluebird,” where Moonface sings in a jail cell as a “bird” comes along (a blue-neon light with added sound effects…I’m not kidding). Lord Evelyn sings and swings from the ship’s ropes to “Gypsy in Me”, for no absolute reason other then some self-immolation. Erma, quite possibly the most useless character in the show, performs the number “Buddie Beware” to not so subtlety suggest about being loved and getting nailed by sailors.

I found all of this in bad taste and somewhat insulting. So much so, I turned to my Broadway-partner Ali with my “is this really happening?” face. I did not even have to say anything; she clearly was vibing on me and responded with a “yes, this is actually happening.” The once flighty, but fun and amusing production quickly became a poorly-written throwaway of a parody of a classic musical, just biting its time until the finale number.

Oh, and all of the storylines and problems the show nurtured (or forgot about completely) for two-and-a-half hours? They all conveniently wrap up, for some reason, in the final minute before the Finale number. Utter bullshit.

We're On a Boat!
The ensemble was definitely not an issue. Sutton Foster was out (of course) and while that is disappointing to some extent, her understudy, Tari Kelly, was more then fine. Joel Grey phones in Moonface Martin, but the man is 80-years-old and a legend, so I can’t complain. Laura Osnes and Colin Donnell, whom originated Hope and Billy respectfully, are long gone from the show, but their replacements, Erin Mackey and Bill English, were game and eerily looked like clones of their predecessors.

I can understand why Anything Goes is a staple in the Broadway catalogue, going back some eight decades to the original 1934 production on Broadway. There are merits to any version of the show and when jamming out to Cole Porter’s mostly-lively score, the show’s ineffective writing does not even register. Works for me…I’ll just be here singing “Anything Goes” in a lower octave enjoying the entertainment the show strives to be. Unfortunately, Anything Goes just did not rise above anything other then the standard for a Broadway show. For a show that won Best Revival, that is disappointing.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Photo Credit: Theater Advisor Blog

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