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updated: 4/19/2013 3:54 PM

'Anything Goes' for touring Evanston actor

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  • Evanston actor Dennis Kelly plays business magnate Elisha Whitney in the national tour of "Anything Goes" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago.

      Evanston actor Dennis Kelly plays business magnate Elisha Whitney in the national tour of "Anything Goes" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago.

  • The national tour of the 2011 Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" plays the Cadillac Palace Theatre.

      The national tour of the 2011 Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" plays the Cadillac Palace Theatre.
    Courtesy of Joan Marcus

  • Video: "Anything Goes" scenes

 
 

Evanston actor Dennis Kelly already has plans to celebrate his 70th birthday this July in Toronto.

That's because Kelly is part of the North American tour of Cole Porter's 1934 musical comedy "Anything Goes," which docks into Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre for a two-week engagement starting Tuesday, April 23.

"I've never played the Palace, but I've seen many shows there," Kelly said during a telephone interview from Pittsburgh. "I'm excited to be home for two weeks and to be able to take the train to work."

Kelly's career spans more than 50 years with gigs on Broadway, in London's West End and in many regional productions across America and in the Chicago area.

His yearlong "Anything Goes" stint started this past October when the Roundabout Theatre Company launched the tour of its Tony Award-winning 2011 Broadway revival in Cleveland.

"Anything Goes" -- a 1930s screwball comedy set aboard a luxury ocean liner -- is a show that Kelly knows very well, since he once played the romantic lead Billy Crocker regionally in the 1962 off-Broadway adaptation. This time, Kelly has had to adjust a bit since the Roundabout tour is using the Tony Award-winning 1987 Lincoln Center Theater Broadway revision by playwrights Timothy Crouse and John Weidman.

"(Crouse and Weidman) really made it move fast in the tempo and pace and it's so funny, it's healing," said Kelly. "The time it was originally written was at the height of the Great Depression and we're going through a similar time with our finances here and now, and I think it touches the same nerves and we all need that laugh."

In addition to Porter's timeless song standards like "I Get a Kick Out of You," "You're the Top" and the tap-happy title song, the 1987 revision of "Anything Goes" also features interpolated songs like "Friendship" and "It's De-Lovely" from other Porter musicals.

Playing Elisha Whitney, a randy codger and business magnate, Kelly gets to sing "I Want to Row On the Crew," which is one of Porter's earliest songs dating back to a 1914 Yale University show.

"It's really more of a ditty," Kelly said. "It's the only singing I get to do -- I'd love to be able to sing more."

Once Kelly completes the tour, he plans to head back home to finish building a rental recording studio in Evanston.

"I really think that's where it's coming to for auditioning on camera or voice-overs," said Kelly, still trying to keep current at almost 70. "We'll pretty much be doing auditions from our homes in the future."

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