`Anything Goes' shows its lasting appeal. Also on New York stage: a Lanford Wilson play
New York — Anything Goes Musical comedy with music and lyrics by Cole Porter; original book by Guy Bolton & P.G. Wodehouse and Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse; new book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman. Directed by Jerry Zaks. Choreography by Michael Smuin. With a splendidly witty score by Cole Porter and a wonderfully wacky book by a cross-generational team of collaborators, ``Anything Goes'' has taken to the merry high seas at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. They used to say in the gracious days of ocean liners that getting there was half the fun. Applied to the 1934 Porter ship's gala, that ain't the half of it.
In revising the libretto of ``Anything Goes,'' Timothy Crouse and John Weidman have preserved the blithe spirit of the Guy Bolton-P.G. Wodehouse original as amended by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse (Timothy's father). The plot of the shipshape farce still centers on Billy Crocker (Howard McGillin), a young Wall Streeter who finds himself a stowaway on an eastbound luxury liner. The passengers include Reno Sweeney (Patti LuPone), a tough but good-hearted nightclub singer and ex-evangelist; Hope Harcourt (Kathleen Mahony-Bennett), Billy's beloved; Lord Evelyn Okleigh (Anthony Heald), Hope's endearingly foolish fianc'e; and Moonface Martin (Bill McCutcheon), Public Enemy No. 13 disguised in clerical garb. Mr. Crouse and Mr. Weidman have treated this zany lampoon with the insouciance it deserves.
Even more to the point, they have kept the great songs from Porter's original score and borrowed a few from his other shows. For musical-comedy buffs, the titles tell it all: ``I Get a Kick Out of You,'' ``You're the Top,'' and, of course, the title song itself, a rousing first-act finale for Miss LuPone and ensemble. For ballads in the romantic vein, there are ``Easy to Love,'' ``It's Delovely'' (borrowed from ``Red, Hot and Blue!''), and ``All Through the Night.'' ``Friendship'' (from ``DuBarry Was a Lady'') offers a comedy duet for Mr. McCutcheon and Miss LuPone, who also helps raise the roof in the mock-gospel ``Blow, Gabriel, Blow.'' McCutcheon gets his own comic ditty in ``Be Like the Bluebird''; ditto Mr. Heald in ``The Gypsy in Me.''
Under Jerry Zaks's swinging direction, ``Anything Goes'' moves from number to number (with or without a song cue) like a sleek transatlantic liner under full steam. The cast carries it all off with enormous brio. The company includes Rex Everhart as a tycoon-ish Yale grad, Anne Francine as Hope's snooty mother, Linda Hart as a saucy good-time girl, and David Pursley as the ship's urbane captain.
Choreographer Michael Smuin has attended to the light fantastic with a dance program that includes tap, soft-shoe, ballroom, and an antic tango for Heald and LuPone. What would normally be a pit band has been elevated by ingenious set and costume designer Tony Walton to a spot somewhere atop the bridge, where Edward Strauss and his sailor-clad musicians provide the kind of accompaniment befitting the tunes of a musical-comedy master. Paul Gallo has lit the production festively. Wise travelers will do well to drop everything and book passage at the Beaumont. Burn This Play by Lanford Wilson. Directed by Marshall W. Mason. Starring John Malkovich, Joan Allen.
Besides its function as title, ``Burn This'' provides the incidental but essential instruction required to resolve Lanford Wilson's bizarre, obscenity-strewn new comedy at the Plymouth Theatre. The surreptitious instruction leads to the reconciliation of a couple far odder than the gentle twosome of ``Talley's Folly,'' an earlier and much more appealing Wilson love story.
``Burn This'' begins in the aftermath of the funeral attended by dancer-choreographer Anna Mann (Joan Allen) for Robbie, the homosexual partner with whom she shared a converted loft and who inspired her creativity. The funeral ordeal has been heightened for Anna by the reaction of Robbie's family to the discovery of the young man's sexual orientation. In the midst of her devastation over his drowning, Anna receives a midnight visit from Robbie's married brother Pale (John Malkovich). Pale launches into a scatological diatribe against the annoyances of parking and other latter-day indignities. The unfolding relationship between Anna and the aggressive intruder provides the central situation of a long, freaky, traditionally formulated play with editorial digressions.
As portrayed by the protean Mr. Malkovich, Pale is a larger-than-life primitive, a compulsive malcontent crowned with a mane of jet black hair to match his black moods; his repertoire of rages can be simultaneously comic and intimidating.
His success in the conquest of Anna might seem totally unbelievable were it not for the vulnerability conveyed by Miss Allen and the visceral drive of Malkovich's hypnotic performance.
The good cast directed by Marshall W. Mason (Wilson's longtime collaborator) includes Jonathan Hogan as a rich film writer who may be in love with Anna, and Lou Liberatore as a loft co-occupant who provides comic chatter, carries the torch for homosexuality, and writes the indispensable secret note. The production has been creatively designed by John Lee Beatty (spacious setting), Dennis Parichy (lighting), and Laura Crow (costumes).