Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Elf the Musical
When Anything Goes premiered in 1934 with Ethel Merman in the lead, it had a book written by P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton and adapted by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Timothy Crouse (son of Russel) and Weidman reworked the book for a 1987 Broadway production that starred Patti LuPone and, for this production, they have further integrated two minor characters necessary to the plot but originally written as insulting ethnic stereotypes.
In the aftermath of the 1929 stock market crash, Porter and his co-authors just wanted to entertain, sneaking in some commentary about rich people, poor people, and a society that turns violent criminals into heroes. Mostly it's about hijinks on board an ocean liner traveling from New York to London, centering on Reno Sweeney (Soara-Joye Ross, a knockout singer and dancer), evangelist and New York nightclub owner.
Reno has a crush on stockbroker Billy Crocker (Corbin Bleu, a dynamic dancer who also excels in singing and acting), but he's searching for debutante Hope Harcourt (Lisa Helmi Johanson), with whom he spent one unforgettable evening. When he discovers that Hope is engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Jimmy Ray Bennett) and that they are sailing together to England on the same ship as Renoincidentally, Billy's boss, pompous and frequently inebriated Elisha Whitney (Thomas Adrian Simpson), is on board toohe stows away. A fortuitous meeting with Moonface Martin (Stephen DeRosa), "Public Enemy #13," leads to even more complications.
Where to begin? With the nine musicians including conductor William Yanesh at the keyboard, tearing into the overture with joy and amusing novelty sounds? With Esse's choreography that at times includes kaleidoscopic groupings of dancers, the smart unison of a small group of sailors, and a lot of effervescent tap? With Alejo Vietti's breathtaking costumes, beginning with a rear-pleated, draped, sparkling black evening dress for Reno's first scene? With Ken MacDonald's economical scenic design, which conjures up so much from a few railings, pieces of furniture, and a movable central platform?
The cast has no weak links, from Ross' rowdy elegance and Bleu's charm while burning up the stage to Johanson's poise, DeRosa's goofy charm, Bennett's unflappability, Simpson's zany side, and Lisa Tejero's operatic moods as Hope's mother.