It’s Fleet Week in Fort Lauderdale, but not every ship that’s attracting attention belongs to the U.S. Navy or Coast Guard.
Nowhere near Port Everglades, docked in the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on the curve of the New River, the S.S. American is home to lovelorn sailors, sassy dames and some pretty swell Cole Porter music. The vessel for all that 1930s-style razzmatazz is the revival of Anything Goes.
Porter’s 1934 musical has a book written by a committee: P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton took the first crack at it, then the newly teamed Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse made it better, and for the first Broadway revival in 1987, Timothy Crouse (Russel’s son) and John Weidman made it sleeker and snappier.
The production that’s at the Broward Center through May 17 is a stripped-down version of director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall’s 2011 Broadway revival. Like its ‘87 predecessor, Marshall’s Anything Goes won the Tony Award as best revival, though if you see only this serviceable non-Equity second national touring version, you may wonder why.
The cast size has been reduced, and some of the younger performers aren’t long out of college. Likewise, the number of musicians in the “orchestra” doesn’t reach double digits. Derek McLane’s original set design has been adapted for the short runs that this tour often plays, so the ocean liner set looks flimsy, while a Manhattan bar, a “stateroom” and adjacent cabin, and the ship’s brig look skimpy. In a number of respects, this Anything Goes is a minor-league product at major-league prices.
Marshall’s choreography, adapted for the smaller company by Sean McKnight and Jennifer Savelli, is elegant, energetic and evocative of the show’s period. The versions of Martin Pakledinaz’s striking costumes and Paul Huntley’s ’30s-style wigs make the women look brassy or beautiful, while the men’s attire underscores class or works to comic effect.
There’s plenty of talent on the Broward Center stage, but this production’s clear-cut star is Emma Stratton as entertainer-evangelist Reno Sweeney. Stratton doesn’t have a big voice like revival predecessors Patti LuPone and Sutton Foster. But she’s a beautiful young woman who completely nails the show’s period style, whether she’s singing the longing-filled I Get a Kick Out of You, a peppy You’re the Top or the roof-raising Blow, Gabriel, Blow; leading the big tap number that ends the first act, or embodying the seductiveness that makes Reno so hard to resist.
Brian Krinsky is a tall drink of water who finds the comedy in smitten stockbroker Billy Crocker’s predicament: He has stowed away on the ocean liner and, while evading his boss Elisha Whitney (Michael R. Douglass), is desperately trying to prevent the wedding of the woman he loves, Hope Harcourt (Rachelle Rose Clark), to the titled and slightly dotty Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Richard Lindenfelzer). The actor dances well enough, though he doesn’t quite make lifting the compact Clark look effortless, and he croons a lovely Easy to Love. Clark gets her moment in the spotlight with a melancholy Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye.
Dennis Setteducati as conniving Moonface Martin (aka Public Enemy No. 13), Tracy Bidelman as Hope’s controlling mother Evangeline and Mychal Phillips as the ready-to-party Erma, along with Douglass and Lindenfelzer, coax the laughs from an audience smitten with all the easy-to-love Porter numbers.
But for those who care about getting more bang for their touring Broadway bucks, it would be easier to love a less overhauled Anything Goes.