It's a shame that actress Rachel York didn't receive entrance applause at the opening night of "Anything Goes," now on tour in a hilarious production at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre.
She may not be a household name (her biggest credit was starring as Lucille Ball in CBS' 2003 biofilm "Lucy"), but York oozes talent and star quality playing the brassy dame Reno Sweeney in "Anything Goes."
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"Anything Goes"★ ★ ★ ˝
Location: Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago; (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com
Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday (also Sunday, April 28), 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday (also Wednesday, May 1); through Sunday, May 5
Parking: Area pay garages
Rating: Lots of innuendo, but largely for general audiences
You know you're in expert hands with York from the very first scene, when she vocally caresses the brilliant Cole Porter standard "I Get a Kick Out of You" into a seductive lament. York also delivers her wisecracking patter with perfect timing, great for comic effect.
But "Anything Goes" isn't all about York, even though she slays 'em time and time again in songs like the one-upsmanship duet "Friendship" (with a great Fred Applegate as gangster Moonface Martin), the Act II company showstopper "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" and the tap-happy title number that sends the audience out to intermission on a cloud of pure showbizjoy.
This 2011 Tony Award-winning Broadway revival by New York's Roundabout Theatre Company is expertly overseen by director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall. She skillfully steers this classic 1934 screwball comedy, which once again proves itself both a laugh riot and a clever period charmer.
Thanks to a nifty 1987 Lincoln Center Theater revisal by playwrights Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, "Anything Goes" teems with comic bits. The show follows high- and lowbrow types aboard a luxury liner crossing the ocean. They get caught up in cases of mistaken identity, cultural clashes and silly sight gags (literally, in the case of Dennis Kelly as the aging business magnate Elisha Whitney, whose glasses get stolen early on).
Though some of the pacing between sketch comedy scenes in Act I borders on sluggish, the cast is great -- ably filling the shoes of outsize personalities and taking advantage of moments for individuals to vocally shine.
Among the vocal standouts is Joyce Chittick as the oversexed and squeaky-voiced gangster moll Erma, who sings the gold digger number "Buddy Beware." Edward Staudenmayer also wows as the floppy-haired British Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, who is forever obsessed with American slang. He lets loose with a great voice and energetic dancing in the Spanish-flavored seduction number "The Gypsy in Me."
The musical features plenty of romance amid the madcap mayhem, especially with the nicely sung pairing of Josh Franklin as Billy Crocker and Alex Finke as the emotionally torn ingénue Hope Harcourt. (Franklin is still game to perform, even with an injury, as evidenced by his visibly apparent right-hand brace.)
The art-deco designs of "Anything Goes" are a dream. Derek McLane's sets for the luxury ocean liner and two classy nightclubs are streamlined sleek, while the stylish period outfits of the late costume designer Martin Pakledinaz are a pleasing eyeful.
"Anything Goes" is one of those "they don't make 'em like they used to" shows. In one sense that's almost a pitfall with its borderline offensive stereotypical take on the Chinese brothers of Luke (Vincent Rodriguez III) and John (Marcus Shane). Yet with all its heavenly Cole Porter tunes and comic antics that are emblematic of 1930s-era comedies, "Anything Goes" is so much fun that it easily disarms anybody who might have objections. As Rachel York so fetchingly sings in the title number, "Why, nobody will oppose."