Cole Porter was, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest theatrical song writers in history. Had he partnered with Shakespeare, Ol’ Will might have amounted to something. But seriously, his plays, music, lyrics and concepts will, like the Bard, span generations. The proof is in the Roundabout Theatre Company‘s present production of Anything Goes, playing at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on West 43rd Street.
I jumped to my feet to applaud at the moment the production of an Art Deco spectacular musical production concluded. Rarely have I felt the need to offer a standing ovation. This wasn’t mildly warranted but absolutely, and everyone else in the audience seems to have agreed – I counted six curtain calls. One of the finest Broadway productions I’ve had the fortune to see, Anything Goes really rocked.
Over the years I’ve seen lots of great Broadway, Off-Broadway and Covent Garden productions, with quite a few great stars such as Nell Carter, Zero Mostel, Patrick McNee, Mary Martin, Angela Lansbury, Gilda Radner, Richard Gere, David Duke, Mary Martin and F. Murray Abraham. Still none of their award winning productions compelled me to rush to a standing ovation with such gusto and aplomb. I applauding so hard my hands still hurt three days later.
I was so incredibly amazed by the impeccable quality of the music, choreography, songs and overall production and the outstanding talent of the entire cast, particularly Joel Grey, and the one Broadway star who has the power, strength and talent to equal Ethel Merman, who starred in the original 1934 production of the same play, Sutton Foster.
Ms. Foster was without question, a tour-de-force of talent; delivering songs that were perfectly executed, dance that could only serve as a feast for the eye and acting that was comparable to some of the greatest musical talent of the Broadway stage. Yes, I’d happily put her up there with Mary Martin, Ethel Merman and their peers. She is a winner, and much deservedly so in her role as Reno Sweeney.
Joel Grey, a Broadway and Hollywood legend was outstanding, his talent rising to the occasion. It was great to see him on stage, for it seems to be where he is most at home. The man is simply a brilliant stage actor and well worth seeing in anything he does.
I was quite surprised to see John McMartin but incredibly pleased. My memories of him were largely from television and film but on stage, he demonstrates an extensive array of talent that cannot possibly be seen on a screen, big or small.
Bill English, playing the role of Billy Crocker was amazing. He has a strong singing voice, superb dance skills and wonderful timing for delivering a line. Porter himself would have enjoyed his performance immensely.
Robert Petkoff, though, stole the show playing Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. At first, one suspects this character (and actor) of being a bit of a fop, and Petkoff hides his talent well. But as the play comes to its zenith, Petkoff unleashes an astounding volume of song and dance talent that must not be missed. Paired perfectly with Sutton Foster, they make a dynamic duo that would knock the tights off Batman and Robin. Zowie!
Erin Mackey and Jessica Stone were also wonderful, both possessing superlative talent with song, dance and acting. Julie Halston plays a believable, adorable mother intent on getting her daughter married off to an English earl. Sublime acting all around!
The orchestra was perfect, the production superbly staged and crafted by the wonderfully talented people behind the Roundabout Theatre, one of New York’s theatrical institutions. This is the penultimate musical performance of our time and shouldn’t be missed.
Anything Goes is an absolute must see for anyone who finds pleasure in genuine talent, great song, superb dance and a thoroughly enjoyable night out. Moments after the curtain rises it will become evident why this production won the TONY for Best Musical Revival. It was a well deserved award.
Stephen Sondheim Theatre
124 West 43rd Street
Between 6th Avenue and Broadway
New York, NY
Ticket Services: (212) 719-1300
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Photos by Joan Marcus.