Chicago/Tour Theater Review: ANYTHING GOES (Palace Theatre)

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by Lawrence Bommer on April 26, 2013

in Theater-Chicago,Tours


H.M.S. Titanic, they say, was unsinkable, but the S.S. American — the setting for Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, his biggest hit before Kiss Me Kate — actually is unsinkable, and has been sailing strong since 1934. Roundabout Theatre Company’s triumphant 2010 revival, a Tony-winning smash on Broadway now on tour in Chicago, may employ a new book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, but what happens on this trampy cruise ship remains fluff and folderol. Anyway, we’re here for the songs — “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” “It’s De-lovely,” “All Through The Night” — effortless melodies and sparkling lyrics that lift a peabrain plot from its vaudeville roots to sudden and repeated glory.

Perfectly repackaged and rehoofed by Kathleen Marshall, this Anything Goes does indeed go, rampaging all over three busy decks on the huge Palace stage with sultry sailors and dizzy ingénues. It’s all so “Easy To Love.” Or, to cite another winner, “There’s No Cure Like Travel”: Like laughter, this love boat is the best medicine.

That’s if you can get over its daffy storyline. Reno Sweeney, nightclub diva and the unofficial cruise director of this matchmaking voyage, still has a thing for “broken broker” Billy Crocker, a risk taker without collateral. Billy is gaga for Hope Harcourt, an heiress without a fortune whose desperate-for-a-dowry materfamilias Evangeline will make her marry into English nobility, namely dweebish Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. To get her, Billy will resort to assorted disguises, even impersonating Public Enemy No. 1 to give to give the ship a celebrity passenger. All gets sorted out before the Atlantic gets crossed, along with clandestine shenanigans perpetrated by gangster wanna-be Moonface Martin (“Be Like the Blue Bird”) and imbecilic assignations engineered by clownish Wall Street mogul Elisha Whitney.

Stage and Cinema review Anything Goes

Intact as the silly story stays, this revival’s big change is Reno Sweeney. No longer a black-and-blue belter of the Merman persuasion, lovely Rachel York plays her as a semi-siren, less brassy and more domesticated. Of course, all hell still breaks loose in the tap-dancing title number’s first-act finale, but in “You’re  the Top” and “I Get A Kick Out of You,” York gets about as contemplative and serene as Porter permits. Confident even when confused, Josh Franklin’s resilient Billy delivers a face for every twist. His great Hope (Alex Finke) is less memorable but she gets to sing a rarity, “Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye,” a winsome ballad as calm as the sea.

The character acting crackles with Fred Applegate’s lovable thug Moonface, Sandra Shipley’s Margaret Dumont-like Mrs. Harcourt, Joyce Chittick’s vixenish Erma (“Buddy, Beware”), Edward Staudenmayer’s duffer/twit Lord Evelyn (his “The Gypsy in Me” brings down the house), and Dennis Kelly’s foxy Elisha Whitney.

Most marvelous, more than the ship’s boilers Marshall’s pile-driving choreography powers the go-for-broke evangelical excess of “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” the frenzied leave-taking of “Bon Voyage,” and the title number’s intricate abandon. You’ll get a kick out of this.

photos by Joan Marcus

Anything Goes
Cadillac Palace Theatre
scheduled to end on May 5, 2013
for tickets, visit

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