Break out the champagne! Corks will most definitely be popping when Music Theater Works presents its first-ever production of one of the great musical comedies, “Anything Goes,” by Broadway’s epitome of sass, class and sophistication, Cole Porter.
Composer, lyricist, bon vivant, fashion plate, and Peru, Indiana’s, favorite son, Porter’s life and work embodied a world of wit, elegance and romance. One of the great celebrities of his day, Porter went everywhere, met everybody, and kept his eyes open at all times.
Judging from the kaleidoscope of references in his lyrics, it seems that very little escaped Porter’s notice. Napoleon brandy, Mahatma Gandhi, Johann Strauss, Mickey Mouse—all grist for the Porter mill. When you hear a Cole Porter song, you feel as if you are getting a guided tour of a bygone world of high society from a man who saw it all.
“Anything Goes” is perhaps the most joyous and effervescent tour Porter ever devised. Set aboard a transatlantic ocean liner, the story throws together financiers, gangsters, showgirls and an eccentric English lord into a madcap whirl of classic screwball comedy.
The score positively glitters with one jewel of the Great American Songbook after another. From the high spirits of “You’re the Top” to the aching romanticism of “All Through the Night,” Porter’s songs continue to fascinate with his unique perspective on life and love. They turn the world upside down, making sport of life’s miseries, and finding unexpected pathos amid life’s joys. Take one example: has there ever been a song that makes unrequited love sound as fun as “I Get a Kick Out of You?”
The production features two of the company’s favorite leading ladies, Erica Evans and Lexis Danca. Evans, last seen at Music Theater Works as the temptress Lola in “Damn Yankees,” returns as Reno Sweeney, the sassy nightclub sing originally played by Ethel Merman. The role of socialite Hope Harcourt is taken by Danca; she was Louise in last season’s “Gypsy.”
Brian Zane and Ken Singleton.
Brian Zane, the irrepressible Luther Billis in 2015’s “South Pacific,” returns as the comically hapless gangster Moonface Martin. Ken Singleton, seen recently at the Marriott Theatre in “Oklahoma!” and “Ragtime,” makes his Music Theater Works debut as the suave Billy Crocker.
Music Theater Works’ “Anything Goes,” staged by the company’s artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller, with music director Roger L. Bingaman leading a cast of 30 and a 16-piece big-band style orchestra, will run Aug. 18 – 26 at Evanston’s Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St. For tickets, call (847) 920-5360 or visit MusicTheaterWorks.org.