Indiana's Broadway stage musical claim-to-fame Cole Porter had a mind and creative imagination that were far ahead of his time.
Even though I've heard his array of fun and clever songs many times, seeing them folded into a stage story gives them new life and meaning.
The new national Broadway tour of his revived hit "Anything Goes," hitting Chicago for a two-week run through May 5 at Cadillac Palace Theatre, is introducing Porter's tunes and his slanted take on life to new generations.
It stars Rachel York in the spicy Ethel Merman-made-famous role of nightclub star Reno Sweeney. It's a larger-than-life character and York's voice hits every last note. She a bit more brassy and over-the-top in her portrayal (perhaps channeling Mae West?) than I expected, but there's also no denying she holds audiences in the palm of her hand.
Josh Franklin is a ball of talent and fire playing Billy Crocker for this first national tour produced by New York City's Roundabout Theatre Company. He also starred on Broadway for the revival launched in New York in 2011 headlining Sutton Foster in the Merman role opposite Joel Grey as gangster Moonface Martin. Franklin has a strong voice and likeable manner that reaches out to the audiences with ease.
This tour of "Anything Goes" is directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, who rightly received the 2011 Tony for her work and clearly had fun resurrecting Porter's 1934 musical comedy about the lovers, liars and clowns on a transatlantic cruise filled with silly mix-ups.
Yes it's corny and might come off to some as the theater equivalent of eating a box of Cracker Jack: sweet, sticky and corny with nuts and a small prize of sorts.
Porter's clever turn-of phrase back in the spotlight, backed by a full orchestra and top talent, is the same naughty thrill as eating dessert before dinner.
Set on the simple backdrop of the S.S. American cruise, the cherry on this dessert is the amazing ensemble in the form of a crew of singing sailors and others.
Fred Applegate does a nice turn starring as Moonface Martin and the cast gets to soak up the spotlight in Porter's roundup of nostalgic hits, with Applegate and York, front and center in "Friendship," and Franklin in fine form with "It's De-Lovely."
And by the second act show-stopper "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" and the title song "Anything Goes," the spirit from the stage had swallowed the theater audience.
A light-hearted romp with musical and comedy kicks every step of the way, Porter's timeless songs are showcased in his classic stage style as intended.
"Anything Goes" plays at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, and 2 and 7:30 p.m Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays,, with no matinee on April 24 and no evening performance on May 5. Tickets are $27-$95 at (800) 775-2000 or visit BroadwayInChicago.com or for details, visit anythinggoesthemusical.com