Graf (noun): journalistic shorthand for paragraph

Two-paragraph reviews…A periodic feature of Scene on Stage

A Broadway  must-see: Sutton Foster in Anything Goes

Sutton Foster has matured since her 2002 multi-Award-winning turn in Thoroughly Modern Millie, when she was merely the brightest star on Broadway. Now, after Anything Goes, that is faint praise; she’s a musical force of nature. The role is that of a musical performer, and just as Reno Sweeney was created for Ethel Merman in 1934, Foster owns it now. On an ocean crossing*, boys meet girls, boys lose girls and boys get girls. Against a Cole Porter score that includes “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” It’s De-lovely” and the under-rated ballad of longing “All Through the Night,” that plot seems almost fresh.

To report that Foster brings down the house with the title song and with “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” is to under value what she brings to Anything Goes – and what she gives to the audience. One two-minute example makes the point. Holding, forever it seems, for the deserved cheers at the end of “Gabriel,” Sutton’s Reno makes eye contact with every single member of the audience – or so it seems. She sweeps the orchestra and the balcony from front to back and corner to corner with a luminous smile that celebrates her own starry stature and is also, somehow, tinged with humility. I’ve witnessed eye contact like that once before, by Merman during a Gypsy curtain call. Minus the humility.

*Of possible interest, especially to my New Jersey readers: The book of Anything Goes originally called for the cruise ship to be facing a bomb threat, which would be played, one assumes, for laughs in a far more innocent era. On September 8, 1934, just before rehearsals were to begin, the luxury cruise ship Morro Castle, en route from Havana to New York, caught fire and burned off the coast of Asbury Park, killing a total of 135 passengers and crew.

The script had to be re-written, but co-authors Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse were in Europe and, again, in those days, unavailable. The director, Howard Lindsay, took on the re-write with a part-time librettist named Russel Crouse. Together, the two would go on to write the books of Call Me Madam and The Sound of Music, among other musicals, as well as the record-setting play Life With Father.

In 1962 Bolton tweaked the book, and Cole Porter’s “DeLovely” and “Easy to Love” were added from other sources. In 1989 Timothy Crouse (Russel’s son) and John Weidman tuned up the book yet again. The gags are still corny, which doesn’t mean ‘not funny,’ right? And the songs…ahhh, the songs.

Daniel Radcliffe Succeeds – With Minimal Effort

The question of whether Daniel Radcliffe will draw audiences to the Broadway revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a no-brainer. The young man who embodies Harry Potter in the hearts of millions will undoubtedly fill the Hirschfeld Theatre through the summer months, which is good for him, for the show’s producers and for entertainment-lite seeking tourists. That’s not a knock; the show, about climbing the corporate ladder by gaming the system, is entertainment-lite.

The question if whether Radcliffe can actually sing and/or dance isn’t answered until late in the second act, when he and unlikely partner Rob Bartlett (Imus in the Morning) step lively in  “Brotherhood of Man,” composer/lyricist Frank Loesser’s eleven-o’clock number. Up until then, our guy has conspired, with co-star John Larroquette (J. B. Bigley) and most of the cast, to amble through a lackadaisical couple of hours. Only Tammy Blanchard, as a 1960-style sexpot, perks things up. Her expressive face – yes, face – and Radcliffe’s finally-displayed (and not half bad) song-and-dance routine send you out of the theater smiling.