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Anything Goes

Sutton Foster is simply scintillating in Kathleen Marshall's rousing revival of the classic Cole Porter musical.

Colin Donnell and Sutton Foster in Anything Goes
(© Joan Marcus)
Over the last decade, no leading lady has wowed innumerable audiences with her silvery voice and eager charm more than Sutton Foster. Now, as sassy evangelist-cum-nightclub singer Reno Sweeney, the Tony Award-winning star is simply scintillating in Kathleen Marshall's highly rousing revival of Anything Goes, now at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.

Indeed, Foster outdoes herself here as a no-holds-barred show-biz triple-threat personality. While she doesn't sing the second-act showstopper "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" with the same dynamism composer-lyricist Cole Porter may have expected from original star Ethel Merman, one must note that Merman never offered Foster's here-to-Pittsburgh leg extensions. And try not to gasp as Foster leads her stamina-pumped company though a tap-heavy "Anything Goes," in which Marshall makes certain just about anything does go.

That song -- which concludes the first act -- is just one of the breathtaking standards on display here, which includes "You're The Top," "I Get a Kick Out of You," "Easy to Love," "All Through the Night," and "It's De-lovely," (which has been interpolated here from Red, Hot and Blue.) Indeed, Porter's songs may be the best reason of all to visit the production.

Indeed, one may desire more Porter songs and less of a now-overstuffed book (first carpentered in 1934 by P. G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, then revised by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, and later revised again by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman for the 1987 Lincoln Center revival) in which a collection of amusingly silly characters -- played here by a first-rate company -- deliver already creaky gaglines, all the while sorting out various shipboard romances, mistaken identities, and silly misunderstandings.

Chief among those lending Foster more-than-able support is the ebullient Joel Grey, exuding pixieish charm as Public Enemy Number 13, Moonface Martin. Colin Donnell, and Laura Osnes lend needed substance as the plot's love interests, stockbroker Billy Crocker and socialite Hope Harcourt. Adam Godley as Hope's seemingly stuffy fiancé, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, garners applause as he not so stuffily executes a show-stealing tango with Reno. And hardly fading into the background are John McMartin as happily imbibing Yale alumnus Eli Whitney, Jessica Walter as haughty Evangline Harcourt, and Jessica Stone as snappy, snazzy gun-moll Erma, and Robert Creighton as the amusingly officious Ship's Purser.

Marshall deserves high praise here for her staging, notably her inventive choreography and readiness to reference classic Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers numbers if they serve her needs. Furthermore, she takes care that her large cast smartly negotiates the various set-pieces aboard Derek McLane's ocean liner. Kudos as well to Martin Pakledinaz for his glittering costumes, the wittiest of which is the flames-of-hell outfit he lacquers on Foster and her "angels" for "Blow, Gabriel, Blow."

In the end, Anything Goes offers what many theatergoers are looking for today: a lot of bang for the bloated Broadway buck and a chance to see a true star in action.