Anything Goes was one of Cole Porter’s biggest Broadway hits. It debuted in 1934 and was a vehicle for theater legend Ethel Merman, who starred as evangelist turned night club singer Reno Sweeney. Now a film of the recent London production, starring Sutton Foster, will be shown in U.S. theaters.

Foster first slipped into Merman’s big shoes, which here are fitted with taps, in the 2011 Broadway revival, which was directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, and in 2021 she reprised that role in the London revival, which was also directed and choreographed by Marshall. Anything Goes had an original book by P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton with Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse and featured a new book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman. That production was captured on film, which ran in Britain in November and will play in theaters in the United States on March 28 and 30.

Sweeney, one of the great musical comedy roles of all time, was said to have been based loosely—very loosely—on evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson and night club star Texas Guinan. Reno is brassy, loud, fun and perhaps just a little manipulative.

The plot involves two unlikely couples aboard the S.S. American as it heads out on a transatlantic crossing. It also features also some singing sailors, some very strange disguises, a social climbing public enemy and maybe a little blackmail. (I’m not making this up, you know.) Not that anyone is suborning anything criminal, but then this plot will probably test the limits of the most gullible of viewer’s willing suspension of disbelief anyway. In short, just go with it. This is old-fashioned musical comedy at its purest. The story line even a major overhaul in its original incarnation, when a real-life shipwreck came a little close to relevance in a show that was always intended as escapism. The plot always was silly, but if silly rises and falls in the polls, Porter’s numbers’ numbers have always remained high.

anything goes sutton Foster
Sutton Foster stars in a film version of the stage production of “Anything Goes,” which will be in theaters at the end of March.
Tristram Kenton

From top to bottom, Anything Goes really is mostly an excuse for such Porter classics as the title song, “You’re the Top,” “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” And under Marshall’s direction, it also in an excuse for some of the most tip-top tap dancing sequences seen in recent years.

Movie musicals have experienced a bit of a resurgence in recent years with the release of such shows as Jon Chu and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story and Miranda’s Tick, Tick…Boom!, which was based on the Jonathan Larson autobiographical stage musical.

This production, which has a new look, opened in London in the summer of 2021. It was filmed over a several performances, which were then edited together. The movie ran in theaters in the U.K. this past November.

Anything Goes will allow longtime musical theater fans to catch up on the production they might have missed in 2011 or 2021 and newer fans to fall in love with it for the first time. As it was when it opened in 1934, the show is a welcome respite from the depressing daily headlines. To borrow from another classic from the Great America Songbook, by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, Anything Goes invites people to “get happy” at least for a few hours.

Anything Goes will run in cinemas in the United States on March 28 and 30. For tickets and more information go to AnythingGoesMusicalCinema.com.



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