REVIEW: The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Anything Goes’

“Times have changed,” goes the opening line of the classic Cole Porter song “Anything Goes.” And the same can be said for the show itself, which seems to go through a different permutation every time it arrives on stages.

Songs from one version get cut from another. Characters are added or jettisoned. Jokes are tweaked. For instance, you won’t find “It’s De-Lovely” in the original 1934 production. That tune, plus “Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye,” were actually from the Porter musical “Red, Hot and Blue.” They were added to “Anything Goes” for, respectively, 1962 and 1987 revivals.

I say this in order to try to identify the semi-amorphous shipboard musical that, in its latest local incarnation, graces the stage of the Hilbert Circle Theatre (May 9-10) thanks to a concert version by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. And to give a heads up to Porter purists who might be wondering why there’s no sign of the “Public Enemy Number One” song. Or why “Most Gentlemen Don’t Like Love,” from 1938’s “Leave It To Me” makes a second act appearance.

While I might object to a more recent musical making fast and loose with the original text (Heaven forbid a song from "Company" showing up in "Sweeney Todd," “Anything Goes”—built during a time of frivolous entertainments—gets a pass. Once the ISO launched into the overture, the musical champaign cork was popped and such matters as purity, consistency, and logic headed straight for the lifeboats.

Of the passengers along for this voyage, Rachel York offered a street-edged Reno Sweeney, chummy enough that you can see why Billy (Max von Essen) loves her but doesn’t LOVE her. Judy Kaye was a delight and woefully underused as the gold-digging mother of bride-to-be Hope, and Gary Beach (the only performer still on book at the opening performance) milked plenty of laughs out of Moonface Martin. 

Thanks to the Indianapolis Men’s Choir and a team of joyful dancers, the ship felt appropriately populated. And a special shout out to dancer Melissa Schott who performed a remarkable save when a sailor lost a hat in the midst of a dance number. Not only did she gracefully snag the hat, but got it back to its proper owner without missing a step.

The real star of the show, though, was the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. No matter what order the scenes are in, which songs are included, and who’s falling for who, it’s the music that’s de-lovely. And the 60-strong ISO (compared to the 10-20 that filled the pit during Broadway incarnations) made this Porter platter de-licious.

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