Watch: Anything Goes Rehearsal Footage

I won't lie. I was very skeptical about this revival of Anything Goes. Joel Grey, to me, is way too old to play Moonface Martin and Sutton Foster hasn't shown the sass-mouth brassy belt ala Reno Sweeney before (though Janet Vandergraaf in The Drowsy Chaperone was close, she played it as a vixen, not a vamp, and there is a difference). And, to put it bluntly, the book (doesn't matter which version) is horrible. If you do not have explosive choreography and the best singers possible with just the right voices, the show is a snore.

The above footage excites me for many reasons. One, Sutton Foster has found a valid and unique interpretation of "Anything Goes." Usually, singers belt Reno's two big dance anthems--this and "Blow, Gabriel, Blow"--like they'll never get to sing again. Instead, Foster actually finds an emotional connection to the action on stage and the lyrics of the song and makes the whole thing sound new again.

Two, Joel Grey, Sutton Foster, and Colin Donnell (as Billy Crocker) already have great chemistry. That trio is the backbone of the show (even if this version of the book breaks the characters in rotating pairs rather than a steady trio). If you don't believe they're friendship, the show falls apart. Reno is friends with both, and Billy is tricked into trusting Moonface (though they quickly develop a friendship in their mutual scheming to stay on the ship). Sure, they all wind up with cursory characters in the end (Sir Evelyn, Hope, and Erma), but that's after two hours of hijinks caused by these three.

Three, the tapping is flashy, loud, and adequately staged. Snooping around some major theater message boards, I saw quite a few complaints about this being "basic" or "college" tap choreography. It's true to a certain extent. They aren't doing the most advanced tap moves and don't use a lot of syncopation, either. Keep in mind, this is a very old-fashioned show and this choreography is actually rather innovative without going beyond the vocabulary of tap music for that period in theater history. What works is how well the tapping rises, falls, rises, and climaxes. This is the kind of dancing that will get spontaneous bouts of applause in a theater.

Four, the show is going to use the whole stage. That back platform Sutton Foster starts on is the upper level of the ship and it continues beyond the edges of the stage. The stage is the lower level and it, too, goes all the way across. The theater is wide and the show will actually look like the cast is on the real-size ocean cruiser. Whether or not the ship is going to rise, fall, rotate, or transform into other pieces (please, no) remains to be seen. This isn't the show for that kind of explosive staging, but neither is Guys and Dolls and that wound up looking like a theme park attraction in the latest revival.

For brief clarification, I lost the link to the cut of this video I was going to use here. The characters on stage are frozen after Billy is named honorary captain of the ship, with Reno using "Anything Goes" as commentary on the situation.

Consider this production of Anything Goes raised from uncertainty to cautious optimism. It could turn out to be really good still.