Ethel Merman used to say that "Anything Goes" was about "a girl on a boat." And that's pretty much the whole deal, except for the other girls, the guys and the fact that the boat is a deco ocean liner stocked with nonstop Cole Porter standards, standard-issue mistaken-identity convolutions and the usual bunch of '30s musical-comedy mugs.
So it is with the revival that the Roundabout Theatre Company has put together with Sutton Foster as Merman's onboard chantoozie and Joel Grey as the dim-bulb mobster hardly hiding as a minister. Director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall gets the 1934 nautical fluff ball moving by the numbers, which are prime and plentiful if not imbued with the blush of original thought.
The show has not been on Broadway since Patti LuPone took ownership of the Merman role in 1987. Though nearly a quarter century may be an eternity for people who love this Depression-genre nonsense, even they might wish the revival were blazing with justification for another run through the glittery Porter songbook.
Still there is an intricate, exhausting and terrific tap number to the title song before intermission. And though Foster still seems more goofy ingénue practicing her sneer than hard-boiled broad as Reno Sweeney, she is a quick-witted song-and-dance ingénue with a soul beneath the "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" pizzazz. Grey's gifts aren't exactly stretched as Moonface Martin, though he does have a lovely moment advising others to, as he pronounces it, "be like the blueboid."
Colin Donnell carries the dashing leading-man duties -- not to mention "You're the Top" and "Easy to Love" -- with real style. Laura Osnes is bland as his society love, but so is the role. It took three separate duets of writers to come up with this plot (the last for the 1987 revisions), but the romances still feel paired up wrong.
John McMartin is a pro, even as an ever-tipsy tycoon. Jessica Walter keeps her dignity as the money-grubbing matron. Derek McLane's set suggests triple-deck luxury with clever economy, while Martin Pakledinaz's gowns, especially for Foster, are both sexy and lyrical. Everyone gestures wildly to act out Porter's sophisticated lyrics, as if Marshall thinks the characters aren't bright enough to get the references.