You don’t have to be a fan of history or musical comedies or historical musical comedies to enjoy the latest revival of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. But if you are, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
Even though I grew up longing for the spotlight – spending time in my high school drama club and eventually minoring in theatre in college – I’ve never been a huge fan of live theatre. I tend to be more drawn to the intimacy of TV and movies. And I’m usually less interested in musicals because, really, who just breaks into song and dance in real life?
But Hamilton changed all that. And Dear Evan Hansen changed all that. In fact, I was fortunate enough to see Dear Evan Hansen at Arena Stage before it even went to Broadway. And now I find that I’m eager to see a play that’s well done, well cast, and engaging to watch.
Anything Goes is the latest play at Arena Stage to meet all of that criteria. Set in 1934, it’s kind of a silly predictable story set on a cruise ship sailing from New York to London. Reno loves Billy but Billy loves Hope but Hope is marrying Lord Evelyn even though she really loves Billy. During this love disaster, songs are sung and hijinks ensue. You won’t have to spend much time analyzing the scenes or the dialogue. Your job is to sit back and enjoy.
In order to fully enjoy, you have to immerse yourself in the 1930s. It’s just past the Great Depression and you’ll find a lot of references from the era woven into the lines and the songs. But even if you’re not up on your recent history, you’ll still find the songs super catchy and maybe even sounding a little familiar.
Here’s a little known fact about me: I’m very familiar with songs from the 30s, 40s, and 50s and probably not for the reasons you would think. My mother had an organ in the house that I loved to play and I’d break out all her song books that included the music of Rogers and Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter, among others.
Some of the more well known Cole Porter songs to come out of Anything Goes includes the title song, as well as “I Get a Kick Out of You”, “You’re The Top”, and “It’s De-Lovely.” Even if none of those sound familiar to you, there’s one reason you should see Anything Goes, especially at Arena Stage.
Corbin Bleu plays Billy Crocker, a young Wall Street broker who’s in love with a woman out of his league. It’s a role that’s been played by the likes of Hal Linden, John Barrowman, Bing Crosby, and even Frank Sinatra. Corbin Bleu brings this amazing exuberance to the role making it seem like the role was written for him.
In an age where a selfie on Instagram can be considered a “talent,” it’s so refreshing to see someone who can sing (oh, what a melodic voice that sounds straight out of the 1930s), act, and dance (he’s so light on his feet and he can tap dance!). As I watched the show, I decided that someone needed to snatch up Corbin Bleu and make him a star.
And then I found out he’s been on Broadway and starred in the Disney hit, High School Musical. So I guess we’ve got the star thing covered.
If you’re looking for a dreamy lead actor, this performance has it covered. The rest of the cast keeps the show energetic and fun (I especially loved Erma’s rendition of “Buddie Beware”). And the costumes are absolutely gorgeous. But what makes this show especially unique is that it’s performed in a theater-in-the-round stage. You’re not just watching the musical; you’re immersed in it.
During the holiday season, this is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle. I took my mother and we smiled through the fun, lively, sometimes un-PC show. It’s the perfect show for your parents or even your tweens and older.
Anything Goes runs through December 23 at Arena Stage, 1101 6th St. SW. Tickets are $50 to $125. Call (202) 488-3300, or visit arenastage.org.