Anything Goes is a musical with music and lyrics by Cole Porter. The "book" was a collaborative effort by Guy Bolton, P.G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. It introduced such songs as "You're the Top", "I Get a Kick Out of You" and "Anything Goes".
Anything Goes was based on an idea by a producer, Vinton Freedley, who was living on a boat in Panama, having left the USA to avoid his debts. He selected the writing team, and the star, Ethel Merman. As the show was in preparation, a passenger ship, the SS Morro Castle, burned and over 125 passengers perished. The plot, which concerned a shipwreck, was deemed insensitive, and the show was almost entirely rewritten.
According to theatre legend, the show's new title, along with the title number, was born from the haste with which show was revamped: at a late night production meeting, an exasperated and over-worked member of the production team cried out "And just how in the hell are we going to end the first act?!"
"At this point," responded one of the producers, being more helpful than he realized, "anything goes!!"
The resulting story concerned the shenanigans below decks on a cruise ship bound for London from New York. On board: an evangelizing nightclub singer, Reno Sweeney (played by Merman); a love-sick stowaway, Billy Crocker (played by William Gaxton); and a second-rate gangster on the lam, Moonface Martin (played by Victor Moore). The show opened at the Alvin Theatre, New York City, on 21 November 1934 and became the fourth longest-running musical of the 1930s.
In 1962, the script was revised to incorporate several of the changes from the movie versions. Most changes revolved around the previously minor character Erma, whose name was changed to Bonnie. This revision was also the first stage version of Anything Goes to incorporate "It's De-Lovely".
For the 1987 Broadway Revival, which starred Patti Lupone in the role of Reno Sweeney, John Weidman and Timothy Crouse (Russel's son) updated the book and re-ordered the musical numbers, borrowing Cole Porter pieces from other Porter shows, a practice which the composer often engaged in.
The musical enjoyed a West End revival in 2003 with the National Theatre's production starring Sally Ann Triplett and John Barrowman.
Billy Crocker, a young Wall Street broker, stows away on the S.S. American, in hopes of winning the heart of his beloved Hope Harcourt. His boss, Yale graduate Elisha J. Whitney, is also on board. He plans to relax before the tremendous sale of his own company's stock (or, in the 1962 version, to make an important business deal in England). Hope is on her way to England to be married to Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, a stuffy, hapless British nobleman. Stowing away with Billy are "Moonface" Martin, a gangster labeled "Public Enemy 13," and his friend Erma (originally named Bonnie); the two have disguised themselves as a reverend and a missionary, respectively, after stranding the ship's real reverend back at the port. On board, Crocker runs into his friend, nightclub singer Reno Sweeney, who resolves to help Billy win over Hope. Billy simultaneously learns the true identities of Moonface and Erma, and in exchange for his silence, they join the plot to break up Hope and Evelyn; as the show progresses, Hope, Evelyn, Billy, Reno, Elisha, Erma, and Moonface all end up in a variety of compromising positions with members of the opposite sex.
Songs and singers
The songlist for the Original 1934 Edition: