Why, one wonders, should Roundabout see fit to trot out “Anything Goes,” the frequently produced 1934 musical chestnut? Turns out it has a compelling reason: Sutton Foster. She doesn’t just deliver those Cole Porter hits, she knocks ’em out of the park. Joel Grey gives his happiest performance in years as Public Enemy #13, and director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall has a field day, outdoing herself with several rousing dance numbers. This new “Anything Goes” is a daffy, shipshape romp.
Foster has a reputation as one of Broadway’s hardest working musical comedy stars, with a clenched-in-determination jaw all too frequently visible. But as Reno Sweeney, the evangelist-turned-nightclub singer, Foster’s smooth performance is smart, sassy and blithely engaging. She seems to be having a whale of a time.
Grey — who turns 79 on Monday, and is simultaneously directing the upcoming Broadway staging of play “The Normal Heart” — is in fine form. He gives the hapless gangster Moonface Martin a Chaplinesque spin, although his blank expression is closer to that of Chaplin-competitor Harry Langdon. Show chugs along well enough until Grey and Foster break things open with “Friendship,” demonstrating just what big-league musical comedy clowning should be.
Occupying the third point of the star triangle is newcomer Colin Donnell, who makes an impressive showing but doesn’t have the necessary presence to steal the stage from the two Tony winners hogging the spotlight. Veteran scene-stealer John McMartin takes up some of the slack as a doddering old Yale man, Jessica Walter similarly chews the scenery as the character comedienne and Jessica Stone scores as a sailor-happy moll.
Surprise of the evening comes from British comedian Adam Godley, last here as the stuffy husband to Lindsay Duncan in 2002’s “Private Lives.” When the second act starts to bog down, Godley — as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh — commandeers matters with “The Gypsy in Me.” Godley dances with Foster so extravagantly he turns a throwaway number into a rousing high-point with extended (and very funny) dance variations.
Marshall, who staged the revivals of “Wonderful Town” and the Harry Connick Jr. “Pajama Game,” does an especially fine job here. She deftly handles the vintage corn of the book while conjuring joyous routines for Foster and a fine dance corps (especially in the title song and “Blow Gabriel, Blow”). Derek McLane’s sets, while not lavish, are functional and amusing, Martin Pakledinaz provides colorfully humorous costumes and the music department, under the supervision of Rob Fisher, makes Porter sparkle.
The Roundabout uses the playing version created in 1987 for Lincoln Center Theater (which receives title-page billing here). The well-remembered LCT staging was sleekly stylish and stunningly sophisticated; this one is less so, but — thanks in great part to Foster and Marshall — it’s funnier, giddier and more lovable.