Rachel York Is ‘De-Perfect’ in Roundabout’s ANYTHING GOES

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What is the best thing about Roundabout’s touring company of Anything Goes directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall? Everything! It is not often that there is such a polished company of established Broadway actors together at one time, but this production has them in spades and the payout is one of the best shows that has come through Chicago in a very long time.

Anything Goes was the vehicle that shot the late, great Ethel Merman to stardom in 1934 and cemented Cole Porter and a musical genius. With the original book by P.G. Wodehouse, Guy Bolton, Howard Linday and Russel Crouse, the story plays out like a musical version of It’s a Mad Mad World, only ship bound. This “updated” version by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman streamlines and tightens the story for a more modern audience.

The first large-scale production I saw was in 1989 with the stellar Patti LuPone as Reno Sweeny and Howard McGillin as Billy Crocker. The equally amazing Sutton Foster first headed this Roundabout Broadway revival, which was the recipient of three Tony awards including Best Revival of a Musical. This tour, with its sets, orchestrations and company size is in -tact in almost every aspect from its initial port at the Stephen Sondheim Theater.

Anything Goes was quite groundbreaking in its humor at the time of its origin and some scholars suggest it was Cole Porter’s equivalent of sticking up his middle finger to the Broadway institution. Just think about it; the year is 1934 with a country engaged in a sort of moral purgatory after the Great Depression and here comes a musical of all things that shows people living large, having sexual liaisons with multiple partners, lots of poking fun at religious institutions, and, oh yes, cocaine! In many respects, Anything Goes has come into its own and is able to stand up to new works with its quick wit and vibrant music. To that end, Mr. Porter’s score is a cavalcade of classics, some of which many patrons around me didn’t even know where from this show.

From the opening number, the hits start flying at you. “I Get a Kick Out of You”; “You’re The Top”; “Friendship” (though Lucy and Ethel still do the best version EVER!!!); “It’s De-lovely” and of course the title song in which half the audience was on its feet for a standing ovation (even before the lights went up for intermission).

Anything Goes TourVery few performers actually seem to ‘youthen’, but Rachel York certainly seems to have found that illusive Fountain. She is absolutely sensational as Reno Sweeney, both vocally and with her amazing tap dancing prowess. Moreover, Ms. York brings some Carol Burnett comedy skills to role which makes this part all her own.

Ms. York is surrounded by the best in the business including Chuck Wagner as the Captain, Fred Applegate (one of my favorite Bialystock’s) as Moonface Martin, Dennis Kelly as Elisha Whiney and Josh Franklin who is a brilliant Billy Crocker.

Anything Goes looses a bit of steam toward the middle of the second act, but that is more a function of the book then this brilliant cast. And needless to say, the orchestra is the best I’ve ever heard at the Cadillac Palace.

So whatever kind of day your having in this crazy world we live in, for the next few weeks why don’t you all weigh anchor and settle into your cabin at the Cadillac Palace where for two hours all your troubles will be forgotten. You will have the most DE-LOVELY time of your life.

Anything Goes plays though May 5, 2013 at the Cadillac Palace Theare, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago. For more information visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com. For calendar information visit www.TheatreinChicago.com

Related: Chuck Wagner (The Captain) discusses the historic origins of Anything Goes on the Showbiz Chicago Podcast.