The people sitting next to me went to the wrong show. They were sweet—two friends from Philadelphia and their tweenage daughters, and they meant to get tickets to How to Succeed…. The girls, they thought, were too old for Mary Poppins or any of the other “kid” shows. But when they got to the TKTS window, they mistakenly asked for Anything Goes. They didn’t realize the error until they were in their seats, wondering aloud why there was a picture of a boat on the scrim.
I did my best to reassure them. The star of the show, I told them, was very well known in Broadway circles, and had reputation for being very good. I was happy not to have to retract that statement, or make apologies for it at intermission, but I needn’t have worried. This show stars Sutton Foster. Did I really think she would disappoint?
And when I say that she doesn’t disappoint in Kathleen Marshall’s genial revival of Anything Goes, which opened last night at the Sondheim Theatre, I say that as the understatement of the season.
Sutton is reason enough to see this show all by herself. Her performance is so assured here, as pitch-perfect and unwavering as her big, vibrato-free high notes. It’s not just that she’s confident as saucy nightclub owner Reno Sweeney—a role tackled by some of musical theater’s more formidable leading ladies over the years—it’s that she’s confident doing it her way. Her Reno isn’t just a hubba-hubba bombshell or a down-on-her-luck dame. She’s earthbound and vulnerable, and at times, kind of dorky. Just check out her dancing during some of the weirder lyrics in “You’re the Top”. She’s in on the joke, and thank goodness. Otherwise the comic ministrations of this otherwise fusty—and let’s be real, dated—show, could get old real quick.
To boot, Sutton looks amazing. Costume designer Martin Pakledinaz plays her tall/slim/statuesque thing to the hilt. She dominates the entire stage to the extent that the other performances around her, with a couple of key exceptions, have to work hard to make an impact, but they succeed. Laura Osnes in particular is giving a lovely performance here as Hope Harcourt, the sweet-as-sugar young heiress who steals the heart of the leading man. Adam Godley plays Hope’s betrothed, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, with debonair zaniness as he mangles American catchphrases and eventually wins Reno for himself.
But really, this show is all about Sutton. Plot is sort of an afterthought. (In short: A bunch of people on a boat have some crazy good times and all somehow end up married to each other.) Cole Porter’s songs are Cole Porter’s songs—as effervescent and winning as ever. The show’s title number is a stunner—amazing because the recipe for its success seems so simple: A great song, some well-executed dancing, and and a winning star.
If you’re the type to be a little careless at the ticket window, you’d do much worse than to mistakenly buy this ticket at TKTS. Although I have a feeling you won’t be finding it there quite so easily in the future.