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Anything Goes…and Goes…and Goes

April 14th, 2011

Photo by Joan Marcus.

A backstage birdie tells me (I feel like Walter Winchell) that the Roundabout’s critically-acclaimed revival of Anything Goes has officially been extended through January 2012. With this good news, leading lady Sutton Foster can put her gym membership on hold; she gets the workout of a lifetime every night during her awe-inspiring, lung-defying, shin-destroying numbers. Seriously, how many Broadway actresses are truly diva singers and top-tier hoofers? My favorite moment of the show comes at the end of the title song’s epic dance break; Foster walks upstage, takes the biggest “damn, now I have to sing again” breath, turns to face the audience again and seamlessly wails the last chorus.

Of course, she’s not alone in tackling that big number; she’s just one in a long line of Reno’s belting out Cole Porter’s snappy lyrics. So, thanks to the wonder of video, let’s compare and contrast the contenders: Sutton Foster, Patti LuPone, Ethel Merman…and one surprise, dark horse candidate.

Sutton Foster: It’s almost not fair. She’s working on a morning television set the size of a Manhattan studio apartment, the orchestra is canned and it’s 8 freaking AM!  And yet, the girl’s got it. She’s a triple threat and a lyricist’s best friend.

Patti LuPone:  You knew she’d sing the hell out of it…but who knew she’d rock the sparkly sailor suit? I have to take her a notch down for stepping aside to let the chorines do the serious dancing, but she gets sentimental points; the video was show on Musical Theater Mondays at Chicago’s Sidetrack when I was in college and we’d all join in.  And we’d count the number of times the wig slapped her in the face (at 4:00).

Ethel Merman:  She was first. And she’ll be the last, as her hyper-resonant voice travels onward to distant galaxies. I wish there was video from her heyday but this clip gives a taste. Bonus points for the “point and point and point-ography” at the end.

Willie Scott (aka Kate Capshaw):  Yo, she’s singing in Mandarin! Mandarin, I tell you. This will always be the winner in my heart because I used to sing along to a worn VHS copy. (My parents should have known what was up.) Basically, if I’m ever stranded in the Chinese countryside, I can charm my way to safety by singing Cole Porter to the locals. Thank you, Willie.

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