For Director Casey Colgan, Anything Goes in ANYTHING GOES!
Author: Paul Devere | Photographer: Photography by Anne
Director Casey Colgan said that Cole Porter’s mother called him a “naughty boy.” In staging one of Cole Porter’s most popular and enduring musicals (opened on Broadway in 1934), Anything Goes, at the Arts Center of Costal Carolina this December, the exceptionally popular Colgan has taken Mrs. Porter’s description of her son to heart.
“I saw the Broadway show, which turned into the National Tour, about a month ago (October) on closing night. I’ve done the show before, and I’m picking and choosing and using the best moments of all of them,” Colgan said of his interpretation of the musical that includes Porter favorites like “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,”
“It’s De-Lovely” and, of course “Anything Goes.” Of the Broadway and National Tour version, Colgan said it was a little “too tame.”
While the Arts Center’s performance will definitely be tame enough for family audiences, Colgan wants the production to be in the spirit of what “naughty boy” Porter originally intended back in the 1930s. He’s combined his experience with the play and included an historical perspective. “If Cole Porter were alive today and knew what he could get away with, that’s where we’re going,” Colgan said. “Without going overboard,” he added, laughing at what he claimed was an unintended pun.
If you don’t know the play or the story line, Colgan said, “Think of the movie Titanic, only it’s funny.” That is, the boat, with sort of the same types of characters in both movie and musical (poor guy falls for rich gal who is engaged to a rich snob), doesn’t sink. However, in 1934, that wasn’t the case. A luxury liner, the SS Morro Castle, on its way from Havana to New York, caught fire and resulted in 138 deaths. This happened a few weeks before the play was to open.
Since the original play was based on a shipwreck, one story has it that producer Vinton Freedly, who happened to be on a boat traveling to the Caribbean to avoid his creditors (it was, after all, the Great Depression), thought the script (one of the original co-authors was P.G. Woodhouse—best known for his characters Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves), would be in poor taste and demanded a rewrite.
The other story is that the script was a “hopeless mess” and needed massive help. Cynics choose this version.
In a scramble to remove it from the Morro Castle tragedy story (or repair the almost irreparable), Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse (who would later team up for Life With Father, The Sound of Music and Arsenic and Old Lace among others) were called in to save the piece. In the hubbub of all the changes, another legend grew. During final rehearsals, someone in the cast yelled out, “What are we supposed to do now?” when it came to the closing number in the first act. One of the members of the production team at the rehearsal yelled back, “At this point, anything goes!” The name stuck and that first act finale typically brings the audience to their feet roaring.
Like most directors, Colgan wanted to make Anything Goes his own, something of a challenge for the musical that claimed the 2011 Tony Award for best revival of a musical (along with five other Tony’s). But the ever creative Colgan has come up with a real clincher. “Cole Porter’s ‘Night and Day’ has never been in Anything Goes, but it’s probably his best song he ever wrote,” Colgan said. “So while Billy is singing ‘Night and Day,’ she (Hope) is singing ‘All Through the Night,’ then they go into a round. It’s a pretty fabulous mix,” Colgan said. Billy is a young Wall Street broker (remember, it is The Depression) and Hope is the debutante and object of Billy’s undying affection.
The musical is filled with unforgettable characters. Reno Sweeney, evangelist turned night club singer is played by another Arts Center favorite, Shannon Lee Jones.
“Today we’d call her a ‘cougar.’ But this is the 1930s, so we call her a ‘red hot mama.’ She’s always falling in love with younger guys,” Colgan said. Then there is Moonface Martin, “Public Enemy #13,” who really wants to be a big time gangster, but fails.
Colgan has also added a dream sequence that features six “Rockette-like gangster girls” while Moonface is in the brig.
Anything Goes features a big cast, Cole Porter tunes with some of his finest (if, as his mother would say, “naughty”) lyrics, a wonderful love story, truly zany characters and the Colgan touch, which brings Cole Porter into the 21st Century. That should be truly enjoyable and a great holiday gift.
Anything Goes runs December 5-30. Tickets are available at artshhi.com or by calling the box office, (843) 842-ARTS or toll free at (888) 860-2787.?