Corrections or additions?

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.

Suddenly

its plot, that centers on survivors of a shipwreck, had to be

completely

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.

Miraculously,

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

night.

What could have been another Broadway disaster, in that already

tremulous

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

performance

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

undoubtedly

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

original

"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

temperament

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

purposefully

to the preponderance of hoary Wall Street jokes, burlesque-era puns,

and double entendres. But they still work like a charm. It is

something

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

cruise

with some well-heeled folk who really know how to sing those grand

old Porter melodies, tap their troubles away, and find romance

"All

Through the Night."

Along with Hilliard’s martini-award-winning portrayal, this

"Anything

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

prescribed

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

genuinely

endearing gangster-faced Bruce Adler who, disguised as a clergyman,

totes a machine gun in his violin case. Let’s nominate Adler for

Public

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

surrounding

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

shuffleboard?"

Quinn, who gives new meaning to the song "The Gypsy in Me,"

guides the show’s star in a sidesplitting beguine cum tango

outragioso.

First class all the way is Michael Lichtefeld’s delightful and

delirious

tap-ography, which gives all the passengers and crew ample

opportunities

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

"Anything

Goes" is the top.

— Simon Saltzman

Anything Goes, Paper Mill Playhouse, Brookside Drive,

Millburn, 973-376-4343, or www.papermill.org. $37 to $60. To October

15.


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