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This review by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the September 27,
2000 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Review: `Anything Goes’
In 1934, in the midst of the Great Depression, Cole
Porter’s "Anything Goes" was about to go into rehearsal.
its plot, that centers on survivors of a shipwreck, had to be
scrapped when news came that the S.S. Morro Castle had burned and
gone down off the coast of New Jersey with 125 lives lost.
the show was rewritten and ultimately completed by Howard Lindsay
and Russell Crouse (based on what was salvageable from the original
book by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse), just in time for opening
What could have been another Broadway disaster, in that already
year, turned out to be a successful musical. And Porter’s score had
as much to do with the show’s success as did the powerhouse
of its acclaimed new star, Ethel Merman, as the brash Reno Sweeney.
Patti LuPone starred in the most recent Broadway revival in 1987.
But now it is the eternally young (at age 68) Chita Rivera’s turn
to belt out such classics as, "I Get a Kick out of You" and
"Blow, Gabriel, Blow," with mucho gusto.
Seeing Rivera on the stage is more than a cause for celebration, it’s
a reason to cheer loud and long. And that’s what audiences will
be doing at performances that run through October 15. Why? Because
the two-time Tony Award winner (for "The Rink" and "Kiss
of the Spider Woman") and the star (with Gwen Verdon) in the
"Chicago," has what it takes to make a stage light up and
an audience notice.
With a body that reveals no signs of aging (what elixir is she on?)
Rivera first took Broadway by storm in "West Side Story" in
1957, and she remains a dancing-singing dynamo. She originated an
aggressively snappy high-kicking dancing style with a Latin
that has no equal in musical theater. That Rivera can still turn on
the heat with her feet isn’t as surprising as how she holds her own
in the comic department.
More often than not, the show’s silly plot, with a little refreshment
from new book writers Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, holds on
to the preponderance of hoary Wall Street jokes, burlesque-era puns,
and double entendres. But they still work like a charm. It is
about an evangelist who is in love with a younger man, who is in love
with another woman, who is currently engaged to an Englishman, who
gets involved with a gangster and a pair of Chinese stowaways. Anyway,
there is a shipboard multi-wedding finale attended by everyone who
has tap shoes. The show actually pulls together like a Marx Brothers’
comedy without the boys. This is one of those musicals of yore in
which you forget the plot and remember the jokes.
The audience roared its approval from the minute the well-potted Wall
Street broker, Elisha Whitney, says of a colleague: "He jumped
like a Yale man." Worried that his own stock is "going to
sink like the Titanic," Whitney, as played with red-eyed resolve
by Ryan Hilliard, solves his problem by going on a transatlantic
with some well-heeled folk who really know how to sing those grand
old Porter melodies, tap their troubles away, and find romance
Through the Night."
Along with Hilliard’s martini-award-winning portrayal, this
Goes" boasts a treasure house of delightful supporting characters.
Director Lee Roy Reams keeps this ship of melody and mirth riding
the crest of the musical comedy wave. Eleanor Glockner gets the
laughs as the classic stuffy and stiff dowager, Mrs. Harcourt (Whitney
remarks how "she could always fill out a girdle"). And could
there ever be a more perfectly cast Moonface Martin a.k.a. Public
Enemy No. 13 (soon to be elevated in status to No. 2), than the
endearing gangster-faced Bruce Adler who, disguised as a clergyman,
totes a machine gun in his violin case. Let’s nominate Adler for
Comedian No. 1.
As the sexy Erma, Moonface’s moll, there is that snappy
doll Colleen Hawks, whose sailor-beware delivery of the lesser-known
gem of a ballad, "Buddy, Beware," leaves more than the
tars agog. Another rarely heard jewel is the haunting, all too brief
ballad, "Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye," as sung by Hope
(Stacey Logan), the show’s radiantly demure ingenue. Her suitor, Billy
Crocker, is played by George Dvorsky, whose terrific baritone voice
makes great songs like "Easy to Love" (originally written
for the 1934 production but dropped), "It’s De-Lovely," and
"All Through the Night," seem even greater. Patrick Quinn,
as the malaprop-prone Lord Evelyn wins the most comic points with
such wonderfully idiotic phrases as, "I think you’re the rat’s
pajamas," and "Anyone have hot pants for a game of
Quinn, who gives new meaning to the song "The Gypsy in Me,"
guides the show’s star in a sidesplitting beguine cum tango
First class all the way is Michael Lichtefeld’s delightful and
tap-ography, which gives all the passengers and crew ample
to strut their stuff. Michael Anania’s glistening red-white-and-blue
Art Deco revolving ship’s deck, Liz Covey’s eye-popping costumes,
and Tom Helm’s precise musical direction convinced me that this
Goes" is the top.
— Simon Saltzman
Millburn, 973-376-4343, or www.papermill.org. $37 to $60. To October
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