Anything Goes

Music and lyrics by Cole Porter, original book by Guy Bolton and PG Wodehouse, revised by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, new book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman
Stephen Sondheim Theatre, New York

Despite her recent Tony (plus four other awards) for this performance and an earlier set for Thoroughly Modern Millie, Brits may not be aware of the phenomenon that is Sutton Foster.

Suffice to say that she is blonde (here), around six feet tall, looks fantastic, sings delightfully, is an ace dancer and knows how to act in musical comedy.

To cap it all, she has that rare quality of stage presence meaning that when she is on show, you cannot help but watch, regardless of what else is going on around her.

In other words Miss Foster is as close to perfection as anyone could wish for and personally justifies spending $137 or around £90 (premium seats are $252 i.e. over £160) to see her in action with a bunch of talented pals.

Pleasingly, there is much more to Kathleen Marshall’s sensational revival for Roundabout than a virtuoso solo performance.

Of course, it helps if you are witnessing a high quality production of a Cole Porter musical first seen in 1934 with an original book contributed by Guy Bolton and PG Wodehouse.

Anything Goes is a screwball comedy set on a liner crossing the Atlantic. The main plot elements are the inevitable multiple shipboard romances featuring mismatched couples, a stowaway and the presence of a gangster and his moll.

Miss Foster plays Reno Sweeney, a dancer and risqué club owner with a wicked tongue. Her mind is set on Billy Crocker, who looks like a matinée idol. He is so much in love that he follows her aboard as a stowaway. Colin Donnell in this role is a bit of a star himself with a honeyed tongue and dance moves that dazzle.

The problem is that Billy’s passion is not for Reno but a young debutante, Hope Harcourt played by Erin Mackie. She in turn is engaged to a brainless English Lord. Brit Adam Godley shines as Evelyn Oakleigh, especially in a marvellous late song and dance duet with the heroine, "The Gypsy in Me".

The gangster is given Charlie Chaplin charm and sly wit by none other than Joel Grey, whose energy levels approaching his 80th birthday would do credit to a man one-third his age.

The plotting is all good fun and Miss Marshall’s eye and ear for what works on stage then take the evening to another level.

Many of the songs are instantly familiar and all are delivered with gusto. Favourites include "You’re the Top", which must have some of the sharpest lyrics ever devised, "I Get a Kick Out of You" and the gutsy "Blow, Gabriel Blow".

The choreography from the director is also something to behold, with the titular big tap number, a wonderful song in its own right, bringing the house down at the interval curtain.

Anything Goes should be the smash hit of the season and Londoners can only pray that some enterprising producer brings it across the Atlantic so they can see what all the fuss is about for themselves.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher