Musical Theatre Time Machine – Looking Back at Anything Goes
One of the most durable musical comedies of all time is the nutty and tuneful Anything Goes. Written in 1934, this one owes its shelf-life to the champagne and cotton candy score of Cole Porter, chock full of many of his greatest ear worms, to mention his clever use of internal and arch rhymes. The musical has no definitive script or song list because, with each inception, the book has been altered and different Cole Porter songs have been substituted for others in the score. What has been always consistent is that Anything Goes is a screwball comedy full of great music and loads of synchronized tap dance, set aboard an ocean liner making its way across the Atlantic from New York to London.
Here are some fun facts about Anything Goes:
- Initially, the musical was to be about a shipwreck, with some of the story taking place on the boat and the rest taking place on a deserted island. Just a few weeks before Anything Goes was set to open, the SS Morro Castle caught fire and 138 passengers lost their lives. It was decided that it would be in poor taste to move ahead with a story that might be insensitive, so a new script was quickly fashioned. Early titles for the show included Crazy Week and Hard to Get.
- Anything Goes opened on November 21, 1934 at Broadway’s Alvin Theatre (now known as the Neil Simon, soon to be the home of the revival of Cats), where it ran for 420 performances (the fourth longest-running musical of the 1930s).
- The musical starred the big-voiced Ethel Merman as the nightclub singer/evangelist Reno Sweeney. The comedy duo of William Gaxton and Victor Moore (who had appeared in several musicals together) played the stowaway Wall Street broker Billy Crocker and the disguised-as-a-priest gangster Moonface Martin, respectively. These roles were written for and catered to their talents.
- The musical has been revived twice on Broadway. Once with Patti LuPone playing Reno Sweeney in 1987, and once in 2011 starring Sutton Foster. An Off-Broadway production in 1962 starred Eileen Rodgers and Hal Linden was very popular.