It’s 1934 and you’re going on a wild transatlantic cruise full of sex, booze, God, and gangsters. Welcome to the S.S. American, where anything can happen and it usually does.
New Line continued its 27th season with the rowdy, naughty, subversive masterpiece of musical comedy, Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, a stinging satire of Americans’ quirky habit of turning religion into show business and criminals into celebrities, along the way skewering Wall Street, Prohibition, Old Money Brits, and a few other ripe targets.
Anything Goes is a masterful mashup of musical comedy, gangster movie, screwball comedy, and social satire, because even in terms of form, anything goes
. First opening in a time when John Dillinger, Bonnie & Clyde, Al Capone, and evangelists Aimee Semple McPherson and Billy
Sunday were all national celebrities, this was potent, pointed satire; and it’s just as subversive today. The show’s evangelist turned
nightclub singer Reno Sweeney is equal parts McPherson and infamous speakeasy hostess Texas Guinan (the model for Velma Kelly in Chicago). Anything Goes fearlessly ripped open the American psyche and spilled it all out onto a Broadway stage. And the American pysche hasn't changed that much since 1934.
Despite its reputation as fluff, the show is a whip-smart satire of American "cafe society" (the 1% of 1934), with the steamship S.S. American standing in for Shakespeare’s woods, a place with no rules, where people find out who they really are and “correct” the mistakes they’ve made in the world of the City.
Artistic director Scott Miller says, “It never occurred to me until I was writing a musical theatre history book
that the two main themes of Anything Goes are as New Liney as they could be, the commercializing of religion into show business – isn’t that what TV mega-churches are? – and the raising up of violent criminals into pop culture celebrities. Can we be sure that Reno Sweeney is any less authentic than Pat Robertson or Joel Osteen?”
New Line has chosen the 1962 version of the show (there are several versions), with a book by Guy Bolton, P. G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, and additional songs from several other Porter musicals. The New Liners will return to the wild, high-energy subversion of the original production. Miller has been studying the show for some time, including the original 1934 script (which probably couldn’t be produced today). "Over time, the show has been turned into a quaint, family-friendly piece of sketch comedy. I want to return it to its original, satiric, adult roots."
The cast of New Line Theatre’s Anything Goes included Evan Fornachon (Billy Crocker), Eileen Engel (Hope Harcourt), Sarah Porter (Reno Sweeney), Zachary Allen Farmer (Sir Evelyn Oakleigh), Aaron Allen (Moonface Martin), Sarah Dowling (Bonnie), Jeffrey M. Wright (Mr. Whitney), Kimmie Kidd (Mrs. Harcourt), with Jason Blackburn, Dominic Dowdy-Windsor, Clayton Humburg, Will Pendergast, Michelle Sauer, Larissa White, Alyssa Wolf, and Sara Rae Womack. The show was directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with musical direction by Nicolas Valdez, choreography by Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack, scenic and lighting design by Rob Lippert, costume design by Sarah Porter, and sound design by Ryan Day.