Anything Goes is the very definition of classic American theatre. With an upbeat score by Cole Porter and over a dozen revivals since the show's first performance in 1934, it has cemented itself as a landmark piece of musical theater. It's the perfect show for a night out with the family; the comedy is simple, and the songs are a blast.
Starting Dec. 1, Stephens' Playhouse Theatre Company will take on the iconic show under the direction of Bernard Monroe.
Four versions of Anything Goes exist. There's the original 1934 version, the revivals from 1962 and then 1987 and finally the most recent 2011 revival. These four librettos all contain different band sizes, songs and books. The 1987 revival and 2011 revival won three Tony awards each. Stephens will be performing the 1962 version, which includes the songs "It's De-Lovely" and "Take Me Back to Manhattan."
The show has continued to boast commercial and critical success in each of its iterations and remains popular among high schools, colleges and regional theaters alike. Despite containing jokes that might not age well, its songs and swinging energy keep each revival feeling timeless.
Director and co-choreographer Bernard Monroe cites Cole Porter's "brilliant" score as the source of its theatrical immortality.
"It's as fresh today, it's as alive today, it's as vibrant today, it's as witty today, it's as urbane today as it was when it was originally written," Monroe says.
Many big names have taken on the lead role of Reno Sweeney: Ethel Merman, Eileen Rodgers, Patti LuPone and Sutton Foster. Reno is a many-headed beast; the actress who embodies her must be a skilled singer, dancer and comedian. Playing Reno in Stephens' production is senior Sicily Mathenia. Monroe says she understands Reno and came at the role from the right place from the beginning.
"She gets who Reno is," says Monroe. "She has a nice sense of feeling the period. Her demeanor lends itself to the period in a nice way." Mathenia's dance skills are also up to the task for the dance-heavy role.
Anything Goes is known for its thrilling dance numbers. Monroe's co-choreographer Carol Schuberg took the reigns for the show's big tap songs: "Anything Goes" and "Heaven Hop." Other big numbers include crowd-pleaser "Blow Gabriel Blow," a stylized jazz number, and "Let's Step Out," which contains Charleston-style dancing.
The production won't seek to reinvent the musical but will have a cinematic approach to it. "Back in the 1930s, there were these things called screwball comedies," says Monroe. "It's about lightning speed, funny dialogue, which lends itself to Anything Goes." Monroe will try to incorporate the comedic style of screwball films into his direction instead of sticking to a classic musical theater comedy style.
"I'm taking a film genre and trying to apply it to a stage production," Monroe says.
The show will be family-friendly, according to Stephens' website. The musical's fast-paced musical numbers and fun dances are sure to keep family members of all ages entertained.
Tickets can be purchased online or by visiting Stephens' box office.