WHAT “Anything Goes”
WHEN | WHERE 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. Tuesday, through June 4, The Gateway, 218 South Country Rd., Bellport
TICKETS $29.50-$89; 631-286-1133, thegateway.org
“Anything Goes” aptly describes the romantic havoc that animates the 1934 Cole Porter musical of the same name. But it also describes the messy creative process that kept evolving through the third Broadway revival in 2011. The show has six authors — not counting Porter. The first effort, by P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, was revised by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse after a fire aboard an ocean liner killed 138, rendering the bomb-scare plot element untenable. Timothy Crouse and John Weidman updated the libretto in 1987, bringing it substantially to its current form in the opening of The Gateway’s summer season.
The SS American is departing New York for England teeming with romantic complications that turn “Bon Voyage” into a farce medley. Nightclub diva Reno Sweeney has eyes for handsome Wall Street gofer Billy Crocker, who’s hopelessly smitten by Hope Harcourt, London-bound to marry Lord Evelyn Oakleigh to save Mama Evangeline from a life of mere affluence. Moonface Martin, con artist and Public Enemy No. 13, is onboard posing as a cleric. Meanwhile, Billy’s boss, a drunken Yalie codger (Steve Brady), orders him to sell stocks on which he’s received an insider tip. As no cellphones are available for the next half-century, this would require Billy to abandon ship — and Hope.
The havoc sorts itself out to an utterly predictable conclusion, but these banal diversions are so amusing in the hands of gifted comic performers — principally Ray DeMattis as Moonface — that we laugh out loud, even while grimacing, at the dumb jokes embroidering Porter’s lyrical antics, rhyming Fred Astaire with Camembert in “You’re the Top.”
Andrea McArdle as Reno applies her clarion voice, imitating a bugle on “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” but also to the nimble title song. Sally Struthers as snooty Evangeline makes deft use of diamonds and a mink-ish stole as comic accessories, aided by her real-life pet dog, Bradford T. Kenney, making his stage debut. Josh Canfield as Billy brings requisite good looks to the role as well as disarming song-and-dance chops, while Patti-Lee Meringo’s Hope allows us to see what he sees in her. Ian Knauer as Hope’s fiancé nearly steals the show with his malapropisms.
Director Jayme McDaniel keeps the comic mayhem moving briskly to Jason Wise’s riveting tap-dance choreography and Charlie Reuter’s robust orchestra. They make us want to sail away aboard the SS American designed by Derek McLane.