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Theater Review (DC): “Anything Goes” by Kathleen Marshall at The Kennedy Center Opera House

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Anything Goes Tour at The Kennedy Center

Anything Goes, Production Shot. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2012

Whether it is a timeless story, classic characters or music that transcends generations, there is a reason why some Broadway shows stand the test of time. The Kennedy Center Opera House seems to be on a nostalgia kick with their early summer selections. A few weeks ago we had a revival of the 60 year old show Show Boat. Now we have the winner of the 2011 Tony Award® for Best Revival of a Musical, Roundabout Theatre Company’s Anything Goes.

Anything Goes is based on a book P.G. Wodehouse, Guy Bolton, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse; and new book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman. The classic score is based on music by the legendary Cole Porter and includes well known songs like “You’re the Top,” “Friendship,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “It’s De-Lovely,” “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” and, of course “Anything Goes.”

This is another one of those old time shows that I’ve always heard of whispered in awe, as if it is something every Broadway fan should experience at least once in their lives. I walked in cold not knowing any of the music, plot or key moments. The sold out audience consisted of mostly folks in there 50s and above.  As the lights dimmed, I was filled with anticipation for something great.

 At first blush the show seemed weird; where was the iconic cruise ship façade the show is known for, I wondered. It opens small with our two lead characters – lounge singer Reno Sweeney (Rachel York from Broadway’s City of Angels and Les Misérables) and her best friend stuffy, stock broker, Billy Crocker (Josh Franklin – Grease, Legally Blonde) just hanging out at a bar.  The bar set by Scenic Designer Derek McLane was very simple and understated and focused all attention on the two primary characters and York’s amazing voice.

We quickly find this is a classic love story with different comedic twists and turns along the way. Reno drops hints that she loves her best friend Billy, while he professes to love an socialite Hope Harcourt (Alex Finke – Legally Blonde) who is heading to England to get married.  After being challenged to be bold by Reno, Billy boards the cruise ship with a desire to win Hope. Things go awry when he discovers his boss is on the same boat and he gets mistaken to be Public Enemy Number One and befriends another mobster Moonface Martin (Fred Applegate – The Producers). The show, for good or bad feels like a 3-hour episode of I Love Lucy. I happen to love Lucy, so the comedy of errors largely worked for me.

Kathleen Marshall won the 2011 Tony Award® for Best Choreography for a reason. There are some truly outstanding moments in this show including a stellar performance of the show stopping, full company performance of the title song Anything Goes. There is no way you watch this amazing display of tap dancing without coming way saying “I want to learn how to tap.”

Blow, Gabriel, Blow is a funny extended number where Reno mocks the idea of sinning and sinners. The colors and costumes during this nightclub number are stunning and is one of the biggest and most vibrant moments in the entire show.

The lighting design by Howell Binkley is fairly straightforward and the brightly lit production really shows off  Martin Pakledinaz’s colorful costume design work. The workman like production was directed by 2011 Tony®, Drama Desk, winner Kathleen Marshall.

While the show is sprinkled with fun – great moments, I’m not convinced it will appeal to younger audiences. Fans of this classic will not be disappointed as it delivers everything you could want.

Anything Goes is currently playing at The Kennedy Center Opera House through July 7. For more information visit www.anythinggoesmusical.com.

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About Michelle Alexandria