Congratulations have to go out to the cast, crew, and creative team of the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Anything Goes on Broadway. The show opened to near-unanimous positive reviews and now is going to run through January 2012. This is a big coup for the Roundabout Theatre Company. Roundabout is a not for profit subscription-driven theater company in New York City. They normally put on a handful of shows each season, sometimes successful, sometimes not. The roughly two to three month runs let them experiment a lot without much risk. When a show like Anything Goes opens at the end of their season, they can extend it if the cast is available.
So what went so right for this production? Anything Goes needs a director with an eye for choreography and structure. As far as I'm concerned, no one is as good as Kathleen Marshall right now for doing that. Her work is always ambitious, which results in as many hits--The Pajama Game, Wonderful Town--as misses--Grease, Little Shop of Horrors. The difference between these is pretty simply explained: her hits are shows that can handle big dance numbers. Take a look at her version of "Swing" from Wonderful Town performed at the 2004 Tony Awards.
It takes a strong director and choreographer to pull off what Kathleen Marshall came up with here. First, you have to pull out a performance in a consummate musical theater performer like Donna Murphy that suggests an awkward stage presence. Then, you have to juggle a whole lot of dancers. These dancers have to come across as hipper than the lead without overshadowing the lead. Finally, when you get to the dance breaks, for a number like "Swing," everything needs to feel organic and electrifying. We're talking 1930s Greenwich Village jazz clubs. Anything could happen. It's a credit to Marshall's abilities that this number feels so surprising.
Does Anything Goes require that level of surprise? To a certain extent, yes. Chances are, the people who will see this revival know most of the music. The songs are almost all standards now--"You're The Top," "Anything Goes," "Friendship," "De-Lovely," "Blow, Gabriel, Blow," "I Get a Kick Out of You." If you don't give the audience something new, you're not going to grab their attention. If you don't grab their attention, you can't stop the audience from realizing how old and flimsy the book is.
I wrote about the tap choreography preview a few weeks ago and this sizzle reel is just as impressive. Give it a watch then consider booking your tickets to Anything Goes.