‘Anything Goes’ sails with sensational touring company
By Hedy Weiss Theater Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org April 25, 2013 12:56AM
Rachel York and Edward Staudenmayer star in Roundabout Theatre Company’s “Anything Goes” playing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. | © Joan Marcus photo
When: Through May 5
Where: Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph
Info: (800) 775-2000; www.BroadwayIn
Run time: 2 hours and 35 minutes, with one intermission
Updated: May 28, 2013 7:51PM
No need to flirt with disaster by booking passage on a Carnival Cruise. Instead, head straight to the Cadillac Palace Theatre and take a seat on board “Anything Goes.”
Just step right onto the deck of the sleekest of all possible Art Deco-style, trans-Atlantic ocean liners. And rest assured that the entertainment will set you happily bobbing for a full two hours and more. Dreamed up by the likes of Cole Porter and a full crew of writers (from P.G. Wodehouse & Guy Bolton, and Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse, to their latter-day “polishers,” Timothy Crouse & John Weidman), it has now been set in motion at top speed by Kathleen Marshall, a director and choreographer who knows exactly how to stoke the engines of an entirely zany Broadway musical classic. And no, they don’t make musicals like this one anymore. But they sure do know how to revive the best of the vintage ones with extraordinary panache. This is the most sensational touring company to work a Chicago stage in a very long time.
“Anything Goes,” which first arrived on Broadway in 1934 — pure theatrical champagne that recalled the Roaring Twenties even if it was being poured in the midst of the darkest days of the Great Depression — may well be the goofiest musical ever penned. But it is filled with one terrific (now standard) song after another. And with its mix of true romance, sexual innuendo, totally nutty humor, thoroughly modern money-and-celebrity-crazed mentality, nutcase characters hailing from Brooklyn, Sing-Sing, upper crust Long Island, London and even the rice fields of China, it’s got something for everyone. And if all else fails there are a slew of bravura, knock-your-socks-off tap numbers that probably have Busby Berkeley turning green with envy as they move across Derek McLane’s lavish sets, with the cast outfitted in Martin Pakledinaz’s gorgeous costumes.
You want a story, too? Well, it’s about any number of mismatched couples of all ages and descriptions who happily make it to the altar (despite many false starts, shifting identities and unsecured fortunes), and about one girl who happily remains unhitched.
Most crucially, there is a stellar cast on board here. It is led by Broadway veteran Rachel York, whose powerhouse voice and precision diction is matched by her spectacular dancing skills. To the role of Reno Sweeney, the wholly liberated nightclub performer, she brings her notably leggy elegance and swagger, suggesting a sort of patrician bohemian who rebelliously strayed from her roots.
Reno tries to hook up with stockbroker Billy Crocker (Josh Franklin, tall, dark and handsome and a terrific dancer, despite one hand with a splinted finger). But they are only meant to be pals. For Crocker is a romantic, madly in love with Hope Harcourt (graceful, sonorous Alex Finke), the debutante daughter whose mother insists she wed the utterly zany Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Edward Staudenmayer, part Danny Kaye, part Kevin Kline, and a hoot).
As for Erma (the irrepressible Joyce Chittick), let’s just say she starts out as the moll of convict Moonface Martin (the marvelous Fred Applegate), and ends up with a fleet of smitten sailors.
There are wonderful turns by Chicago veteran Dennis Kelly (as Yale’s Elisha Whitney), and a shipload of others, including a stellar dancing chorus that erupts in eye-popping marathon numbers — from the title number that brings the first act to a rousing close, to the chorus of sinners in “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.”
To top it all off, the show’s orchestra makes the kind of galvanic sound too often missing in the pit these days. But hey, that Cole Porter is easy to love.