The 2011 Tony Award-winning Best Revival has docked in Durham and brings honest-to-goodness Broadway talent to the Triangle. Anything Goes is tap dancing its way into the hearts of audiences who are eager to see a traditional musical get new life.
Anything Goes is the classic musical which tells the story of an unlikely group of passengers on a ship to England - a group which includes a debutante, a Wall Street up-and-comer, a night club evangelist, and public enemy #13, among others. It's full of disguise, intrigue, deception, and misunderstanding. There's something about it that's quite reminiscent of a Shakespearean comedy - hijinks of all sorts, ending in, of course, a wedding. Take the crazy plot twists, add some amazing singers, brilliant comic actors, a Cole Porter score, and a top-notch orchestra, and you've got yourself one heck of a hit show.
On a ship that mostly cares about upping its reputation by getting celebrities of all sorts on board, Reno Sweeney headlines at her evangelizing cabaret "services," which likely create more sinners than they save. Rachel York is the perfect woman to take on such a role - she simply embodies the ideal of old Hollywood glamour and has a voice that sounds like it was lifted right from an old jazz record. Her voice is right in Cole Porter's wheelhouse - she was born to sing this stuff. Backed up by what must be the hardest-working ensemble in show business, York's show-stopping numbers "Anything Goes" and "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" were such smashing successes that one could feel the collective restraint that it took the audience to remain seated while applauding mid-show. "Anything Goes," in particular, features a blissfully long offering of the best tap dancing one is likely to see in a musical. The Tony-winning choreography by Kathleen Marshall can only be believed when seen, if even then.
York is supported by several comic geniuses, including Fred Applegate as Moonface Martin, who longs to move up the ranks from Public Enemy #13 to something a little more prestigious; Dennis Kelly as Elisha Whitney, a man who is desperately trying to relive his glory days as a Yale man; and Edward Staudenmayer as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, a high-society Brit who is always trying to keep up with American idioms. Other cast highlights are the delightful and charming Josh Franklin as Billy Crocker, a stowaway on the ship (in the name of love, of course), and the refreshingly youthful Alex Finke as Hope Harcourt, the debutante who is struggling between satisfying her mother's desire for wealth and her own desire for love.
The set, despite being hauled from city to city on tour, looks like it was custom-build for the Durham Performing Arts Center. Other technical elements are also interesting and fun, such as casting and choreographing a follow spot as a bluebird. Despite being a musical that pre-dates even the Tony Awards, the show is still a hit - thanks to the timeless music of Cole Porter, and some updates to the book, by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman.
Anything Goes is spot-on, wonderfully directed, (seemingly) effortlessly executed, and fantastically fun. Throw your worries overboard for a few hours - you won't regret it.
Anything Goes runs through March 24. For tickets and more information, visit www.dpacnc.com.