The year was 1988 when I was first introduced to "Anything Goes," and it was via the campy and brassy Patti LuPone. She was the kind of leading lady I loved: fearless, sassy, larger than the largest thing in life. I suspect she was similar in scope to Ethel Merman, whom I obviously never show on stage. So, essentially, Patti was (and is) my generation's Ethel. (With, of course, Bernadette as our Mary Martin) I remember sitting at the Vivian Beaumont totally mesmerized by her star power, never taking my eyes off her, and delighting in the monstrous voice which was coming out of her petite frame. I thought tho myself, "so this is what they call a leading lady!" So fast forward to 2011. Sutton Foster is reprising the role of Reno Sweeney, and on paper, I thought she was a horrible choice. I like her fine, but always thought her on the bland side. I always say that she is the Broadway equivalent of Beyonce: triple threat, but does nothing for me, over all. On stage at The Stephen Sondheim Theater - she works hard at pleasing the audience - she dances like a mofo, sings with gusto (I still think its colorless, though) and mugs her role as the script demands. And she is winning hearts and souls - she won the Tony! I must admit to being impressed, especially by her out-of-this-world toe tapping skills in the title song that closes the first act. But, I don't know if I will love her as much I will always love Patti.
I didn't need to - I love the show unequivocally. Yes, the book is silly, but the show is one of those song and dance extravaganzas, the kind they don't make anymore. Each and every song sparkles, and I always thank the Lord above that I am blessed to hear songs like "I Get A Kick Out Of You," "It's De-Lovely," and "You're The Top" sung on stage- twice in my lifetime now. I fall in love whenever I hear "Easy To Love," (one of my favorite love songs of all time, in case anybody is asking. No? Ok.) well, because it's just easy ! (Ba-dum) and Laura Osnes reminds me of a young Melissa Errico (there you go again with references to 'my generation') This is the kind of show that casts Joel Grey as a lovable gangster, and the leading man, Collin Donnell, can waltz without making it look like he is on "Dancing With The Stars." With Kathleen Marshall directing, it would make sense that the dance here is as much a character as the songs.
As I pass by the stage door, I can see lines of young boys and girls waiting for Sutton Foster. Twenty three years ago, that was me, and I remember Ms. Lupone had the glamorous graciousness of a diva when she came out to see her fans. I hope Sutton Foster gives the same experience to this batch.