In the wake of a boom in the international cruise ship industry following the 1929 stock market crash, producer Vinton Freedley had an idea for a new musical comedy about a shipwrecked ocean liner. But when real-life tragedy occurred on the open seas, future dream-team Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse were brought in to revise Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse’s original book. In frustrated response to the pace at which the musical was coming together, one producer exclaimed, “from now on with this show, anything goes.” The line stuck and the show went on to become a smash hit.
Anything Goes opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on November 21, 1934, running for 420 performances during the yearlong run. A few years earlier, Freedley had seen burgeoning starlet Ethel Merman performing in a nightclub and asked her to audition for George and Ira Gershwin’s new musical Girl Crazy. Upon hearing her sing “I’ve Got Rhythm,” Merman was immediately cast as Kate and made her stage debut in late 1930 alongside Ginger Rogers. She went on to appear in other stage productions and musical films before returning to Broadway in the original production of Anything Goes as Reno Sweeney, the first of five Cole Porter musicals in which she would star. Joining Merman in the original cast was William Gaxton as young Wall Street broker Billy Crocker and Victor Moore as gangster Moonface Martin. Merman reprised her role in the 1936 movie musical opposite Bing Crosby as Billy Crocker (Crosby would go on to appear in another film of the same name twenty years later with Donald O’Connor and Mitzi Gaynor, although this version bears little resemblance to the original stage version).
Another star of the show was Cole Porter’s first-class score. The only child of a wealthy family, Porter bucked family expectations and pursued a career in music from an early age. After his first attempt on Broadway failed, Porter moved to Paris in 1917 where he married widowed socialite Linda Lee Thomas and traveled Europe while continuing to write songs. He found the success he was looking for over a decade later with his first hit song “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love)” from Paris, which launched his legacy as one of Broadway’s most prolific composers and songwriters. Porter would eventually write over 800 songs (300 of which were written while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Yale, including the university’s fight song, “Bulldog") before his death in 1964.
Aside from the title song, Anything Goes features some of Porter’s most famous songs written in his signature playful wit, including “You’re the Top,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” and “It’s De-Lovely,” with the latter first appearing in an Off-Broadway 1962 revival. The book for the revival incorporated many plot changes from the film versions as well as some changes to the song list. The show returned to Broadway in 1987 and again in 2011 with Sutton Foster (sister of Ogunquit’s Million Dollar Quartet director Hunter Foster) as Reno Sweeney. The production won three Tony Awards, including Best Revival, Best Choreography and Best Actress, and five Drama Desk Awards, and went on to tour the U.S. in late 2012 with Rachel York (Ogunquit’s Spamalot) in the leading role with Edward Staudenmayer (Ogunquit’s 9 to 5 The Musical, also starring Sally Struthers) also in the cast. This year marks the second time Anything Goes has been performed on the Ogunquit Playhouse stage, with the only other production staged in 1989. This splendid and saucy musical comedy features Broadway sets and costumes and top-notch talent in Broadway’s original "Annie" Andrea McArdle as Reno and Emmy Award winner Sally Struthers as Evangeline Harcourt.
In addition to her extraordinary talents, Ms. Struthers brings something else to this production: Little Bradford T. Kenney, a devoted but wandering Cairn Terrier who plays canine companion Cheeky to Struthers’ Harcourt. Sally rescued Little Brad two years ago with help from Ogunquit Playhouse Executive Artistic Director and namesake Bradford Kenney. Along with Mr. Kenney’s own two dogs Wesley, a Scottish Terrier, and Shannie, a West Highland White Terrier, Little Brad was adopted from the Northern New England Westie Rescue, a licensed shelter devoted to rescuing Westies, Cairns and Scotties from puppy mills, owner surrenders and kill shelters. Many of the dogs taken in by the all-volunteer organization come from the mid-West. Each dog is rehabilitated at foster homes before being transported to New England to their new forever homes. A friendly pup with big dreams, Little Brad is a natural on stage. “He certainly had his own ideas for his scenes,” director Jayme McDaniel said of Little Brad.