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A Rip-Roaring 'Anything Goes' at Marriott Theatre

Highly recommended!

Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” is a classic musical comedy of the “they just don’t make ‘em like that anymore” variety. It’s a show that exists solely to entertain, and in its sensational Marriott Theatre revival that is precisely what it does, and then some. To quote Porter, “It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s delectable, it’s delirious….it’s de-lovely.”

Grand applause goes first to Marc Robin, a director-choreographer who possesses every requisite vintage talent (a peerless tap master, he also has a unique flair for mixing the burlesque and the romantic), as well as an ultra-modern metabolism (the production unspools at warp speed and with a helium-like lightness). Robin also has gathered a stellar cast — from principal players to ensemble — who stylishly share his ability to flip from the goofy to the winningly sophisticated with the blink of an eye (or an arched eyebrow).

Porter’s genius for pairing seductive melodies with dazzlingly clever lyrics and hilarious wordplay is an established fact, but for those in need of a reminder, “Anything Goes” is an ideal place to start. The show’s zany book (the original by P.G. Wodehouse, Guy Bolton Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse was updated by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman for a fabled 1987 Lincoln Center revival), is full of witty snap, crackle and pop. Best of all — and this is a rarity these days — every single lyric and piece of dialogue is crystal clear. This cast has the best diction in town.

Created during the heart of the Depression, “Anything Goes” is pure escapist fun — a farce set on a luxurious ocean liner headed from New York to London. And funnily enough, the story makes it clear that the current obsession with celebrity (whether of the glamorous or criminal variety) is nothing new.

Although Charlie Chaplin has decided to sail on another liner, racing around the decks of the S.S. American are plenty of other antic characters — some besotted, and some just plain old sotted. Among the travelers are: The worldly nightclub singer, Reno Sweeney (Stephanie Binetti, whose seductive, clarion voice and terrific dancing are custom-made for this role, just as her leggy looks set off Nancy Missimi’s glittery costumes); Elisha Whitney (Gene Weygandt at the top of his comic game), an alcoholic millionaire; Billy Crocker (the boyish Jameson Cooper, a silky singer and flawless dance partner), the young Wall St. broker who is Whitney’s young assistant; Hope Harcourt (the ever beguiling Summer Naomi Smart), the American debutante Billy became wholly smitten with during a single earlier encounter; and Hope’s widowed mother, Evangeline (Mary Ernster, at her comic best), who is hellbent on insuring her fortune by having Hope marry a loony Brit — Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Patrick Lane, who all but steals the show with “The Gypsy in Me”).

Also on board is gangster Moonface Martin (Ross Lehman, whose comic scenes serve are a master class), and his blonde bombshell moll, Erma (the delicious Alexandra E. Palkovic), who has her eyes on the sailors — all of whom have their eyes on her. Overseeing the ship is the perfectly jaded Captain (that master of understatement, John Reeger). Providing additional eye candy are Reno’s backup singer-dancers, the Angels, including the motor-tappers Purity (Annie Jo Ermel), Chastity (Katie Johannigman) and Virtue (Adrienne Storrs). And dancing up an acrobatic storm are sailors Brian Bohr, Adam Estes, Jerry Galante, Sayiga Eugene Peabody, Andrew Purcell and J Tyler Whitmer.

Everything here is in a state of manic motion as the characters seek disguises and get caught up in mistaken identities, and as designer Thomas M. Ryan’s movable shipboard set is wheeled into different configurations, suggesting a dance all its own.

Porter’s songs (“I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “Easy to Love,” “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” and a slew of others) sound totally fresh, with buoyant music direction by Ryan T. Nelson’ and the band conducted by Patti Garwood. This production is not just a tight ship; it’s a ticket to the most joyous of voyages. Get on board.