News Column

Cole Porter perfection: 'Anything Goes' at 5th Avenue

October 21, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 21--As fizzy and intoxicating as a cocktail of pricey French Champagne, but without the hangover.

That's the classy 2011 Broadway version of the Cole Porter musical "Anything Goes," which has landed at the 5th Avenue like a luxury liner gliding into port.

Any show that opens with "I Get a Kick Out of You," continues with "You're the Top" and ends with a reprise of "It's De-lovely" is rich in diamond-studded tunes.

Add to them the golden touch of Broadway director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall. Glossy production values. Silky '30s gowns (thanks to the late designer Martin Pakledinaz). And a robust cast that sings out, taps and dips admirably and knows how to milk laughs from amiable but geriatric quips.

In short, this is a revival Broadway musical fans can get a big kick out of.

"Anything Goes" debuted in 1934 and boosted Depression-weary spirits with its farcical antics and unbeatable score.

Any blue-ribbon "Anything Goes" needs a gal with pizazz to star as brassy, snazzy lead dame Reno Sweeney, a nightclub singer who becomes the master of revels on a ship of ditsy fools bound from New York to London.

Porter's favorite leading lady of the time, Ethel Merman, did the honors in 1934. In the 1980s, Patti LuPone won a Tony Award in the part, as did Sutton Foster in Marshall's 2011 mounting (which also nabbed a Tony for best musical revival).

Those are big high heels (and lungs) to fill, and Rachel York (a delight at the 5th in Porter's "Kiss Me Kate") does it with stylish moxie to burn. York belts out those tongue-tripping standards, cracks wise and sexy and has fine rapport with Henry Applegate's lovable gangster Moonface Martin; Joyce Chittick as Moonface's ribald pal; and agreeable Josh Franklin as the poor male ingenue smitten with the rich female ingenue (Alex Finke).

First, P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, then Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, had a hand in writing the silly libretto, which places the stock musical-comedy types in love, in disguise, in cahoots, in flight from the authorities.

The broad gags require your indulgence. But they can be quite amusing, too, as in a riotous tango, "Gypsy in my Soul," which reveals the inner sexy beast of a titled British twit (mirthsome Joey Sorge).

However it's Porter's red, hot and blue score (including extra tunes from his other shows), and the all-hands-on-deck, song-and-dance numbers that draw cheers.

Nothing beats the one tap extravaganza, to the title song, with everyone hoofing it up on all three decks of the Deco ship. Another showstopper: the mock gospel "Blow, Gabriel, Blow."

And don't forget to listen to Porter's witty lyrics. (The sound should be this crisp in every 5th Avenue show.)

Porter's paean of praise, "You're the Top," for instance, compares an admired friend to Botticelli, Keats and Shelley; to " a turkey dinner" and "the time of the Derby winner"; and "the nimble tread of the feet of Fred Astaire" to an "O'Neill drama," "Whistler's mama" and "Camembert."

Listen up, future lyric writers of America. That is pure genius.

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com

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