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AHOY BROADWAY FANS!! Come on board with your friends at New York Broadway Tours!! We are celebrating the return of Live Theater and Broadway’s biggest night of the year just 42 DAYS AWAY. We are talking about The 74th Annual Tony Awards. We have more of our favorite showstoppers from previous telecasts coming on our TOP 50 TONY AWARDS COUNTDOWN. Are you ready to sail with us as we belt and tap our hearts out?!!!
Since we’re on the topic of sailing, our choice at # 42 on our countdown takes us aboard a ship traveling from New York to London. There, we meet a stowaway in love with a young heiress, who is engaged to a wealthy and stuffy lord. Along the way, a nightclub singer and a second-glass gangster join forces and come to the stowaway’s aid helping him win the heart of the girl of his dreams. This is Anything Goes. This musical features an iconic score by Cole Porter (that have gone on to become Great American Songbook standards) along with a book by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse.
From the 2011 telecast, Tony Award winner Sutton Foster as “Reno Sweeney” and the cast of the recent Roundabout Theatre Company revival tap their hearts out performing the musical’s Act 1 finale title song itself ANYTHING GOES.
ANYTHING GOES was originally first conceived in the early 1930’s by producer Vinton Freedley. He was living on a boat and officially left the US to avoid his creditors. At the time, he wanted to create a musical specially for one of the greatest first major powerhouse belters of that era…. Ethel Merman. With hiring P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton writing the book and hiring Cole Porter, work on the show began. Its early stages include various changes in the show title (CRAZY WEEK, HARD TO GET, and eventually what it is today as ANYTHING GOES) and the storyline.
FUN FACT: The original storyline of ANYTHING GOES originally involved a bomb threat, a shipwreck, and human trafficking on a desert island. However, after news of the SS Morro Castle sinking in 1934 (which caused over 138 people killed), they decided to last minute change the script so it would NOT scare the audience and think of that horrible disaster.
ANYTHING GOES made its Broadway debut in 1934 at the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon Theatre) where it ran for 420 performances. Under the direction of Howard Lindsay with choreography by Robert Alton, the original cast was led by….
the late and legendary Ethel Merman in one of her many signature performances (later Benay Venuta) as “Reno Sweeney”,
Victor Moore as “Moonface Martin”,
May Abbey as “Evangeline Harcourt”,
William Gaxton as “Billy Crocker”,
Bettina Hall as “Hope Harcourt”,
Leslie Barrie as “Lord Evelyn Oakleigh”,
and more.
It was well received by Theatergoers.
The original Broadway production of ANYTHING GOES did not receive any Tony Awards because those Awards were NOT created until 1947.
A year after its Broadway debut, the show went on to sail to London’s West End playing the Palace Theatre for only 261 performances.
The show would later go on to earn even a higher well received audience with its various revivals especially in our New York Theater scene.
ANYTHING GOES would later be revived 3 times here in New York City. In addition during each run of the show, the libretto kept getting revised. New dialogue was added in, several songs from cut or lost a verse of a song. In addition, songs from other Cole Porter musicals were recycled.
The first major New York revival happened in 1962. However, it was an OFF Broadway revival. Under the direction of Lawrence Kasha and Choreography by Ronald Fields, this production played the Orpheum Theatre. It ran for 239 performances. This cast consisted of…
Eileen Rodgers as “Reno Sweeney”,
Mickey Deems as “Moonface Martin”,
Lois Holms as “Evangeline Harcourt”,
Hal Linden as “Billy Crocker”,
Barbara Lang as “Hope Harcourt”,
Kenneth Mars as “Lord Evelyn Oakleigh”,
and more.
There were no major Awards for this Off Broadway run.
The 2nd revival (and first major ON Broadway revival) happened in 1987 playing the Vivian Beaumont at Lincoln Center Theater running for 784 performances. Under the direction of Jerry Zaks and choreography by Michael Smuin, the cast featured…
Tony winner Patti LuPone (later Leslie Uggams and Linda Hart) as “Reno Sweeney”,
Bill McCutcheon as “Moonface Martin”,
Anne Francine as “Evangeline Harcourt”,
Tony nominee Howard McGillin as “Billy Crocker”,
Kathleen Mahony-Bennett as “Hope Harcourt”.
Anthony Heald as “Lord Evelyn Oakleigh”,
and more.
This revival was nominated for 10 Tony Awards in 1988 winning 3 including BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL.
FUN FACT: This revival was very sentimental for Patti LuPone. On a dark Monday night from the show, she married her longtime husband Matthew Johnston. The ceremony was held on the stage of the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. The set was fully updated with the set of the wedding scene from the show. It also included real life doves flying over the auditorium.
With the success of the 1987 Broadway revival, the production transferred to London’s West End with Elaine Paige as “Rene Sweeney” at the Prince Edward Theatre. It also made its way to Australia.
The most recent revival of ANYTHING GOES happened in 2011 from Roundabout Theatre Company playing the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. The run was initially scheduled to run for 4 months. However due to an overwhelming response, the production was extended for an entire year. When it closed, the revival played a total of 553 performances. Under the direction and choreography by Kathleen Marshall, this cast included….
2 time Tony winner Sutton Foster (later Stephanie J Blockk) as “Reno Sweeney”,
Tony and Oscar winner Joel Grey (later Robert Creighton) as “Moonface Martin”,
Jessica Walter as “Evangeline Harcourt”,
Colin Donnell (later Bill English) as “Billy Crocker”,
2 time Tony nominee Laura Osnes (later Erin Mackey) as “Hope Harcourt”,
Tony and Olivier nominee Adam Godley as “Lord Evelyn Oakleigh”,
and more.
That most recent revival was nominated for 9 Tony Awards that same year winning 3 including BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL.
The success of the Roundabout Theatre Company revival, it embarked on a full year-long North American National Tour with Rachel York as “Reno Sweeney”.
Currently, this recent acclaimed Roundabout production made its long awaited debut overseas 10 YEARS LATER in London’s West End. The cast is led once again by Sutton Foster BOTH reprising her performance as “Reno Sweeney” and making her long awaited West End debut. It’s been one of the first few musicals to be performed since Live Theater has been shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, It’s playing now through October 17th, 2021 at the Barbican Theatre.
ANYTHING GOES today is a popular show still performed in schools, community, and regional theatres worldwide.
Along with its success on stage, ANYTHING GOES was captured on film TWICE!!! However, it has 2 separate storylines. The one that was more close to the stage musical was released in 1936. From Paramount Pictures and directed by Lewis Milestone, the cast was led by….
Ethel Merman reprising her Broadway performance as “Reno Sweeney”,
Charles Ruggles as “Moonface Martin”,
Bing Crosby as “Billy Crocker”
Ida Lupino as “Hope Harcourt”.
Arthur Treacher as Sir Evelyn Oakleigh,
and more.
Later on another version of ANYTHING GOES was released in 1956. However, it was NOT based on the stage show. It was a completely different story about two entertainers scheduled to appear in a Broadway show traveling to Europe, where each discovers the perfect leading lady for the female role. Ironically it was also released from Paramount Pictures. It still featured several of the notable tunes from the musical.
Because of the previous records, the original 1936 film later had a title change as TOPS IS THE LIMIT.
How about those DE-LOVELY toe-tapping sailors?!!!!
Mike Haber
Author: Mike Haber

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