The musical comedy, “Anything Goes”, one of the most popular shows of the 1930s, has been revived many times and contains a number of songs that are now familiar standards. A transatlantic voyage aboard the S. S. America, with madcap romantic escapades and hijinks galore, provides the framework for spectacular dance numbers and some of Cole Porter’s finest songs; “It’s De-Lovely”, “Friendship”, and “I Get A Kick Out Of You.”
Current talked with Tyler Driskill, who will music direct the Encore’s production. Driskill, music director of seventeen shows at the Encore in the past nine years, has won two Wilde Awards for his work and is a highly knowledgeable student of American musical theatre.
“Anything Goes” and American musical theatre history
“Anything Goes” opened seven years after the premier of “Show Boat” (considered by many to be the first true American musical), nine years before the integrated-book, musical-earthquake “Oklahoma!” arrived on the scene. The actors (in “Anything Goes”) have a much greater challenge finding specificity in Porter’s lyrics, as brilliant as they are. Unlike a Sondheim show, or something that’s through-composed, the delineations between the book scenes and the songs/dance sequences are much more stark. But, the material just makes you feel good!
Porter was a classically trained musician….
Porter, very often underrated as a composer, doesn’t get the same recognition as a Gershwin or an Arlen, but his writing is so masterful and intricate. He’s incredibly inventive, melodically, harmonically and rhythmically, but I think his lyrics are so well crafted that they sometimes overshadow his astounding work as a composer. “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)” and “You’re the Top” could probably have coasted along with less superior tunes and been just as successful because the lyrics are so inventive. The chromatic writing in the former and the harmonic support of the latter are evidence alone of his brilliance as a composer. He studied with Vincent D’Indy in Paris, a student of César Franck and a devotee and colleague of Richard Wagner…so, not much more need be said! The ballad, “All Through the Night,” is a wonderful example of Porter’s compositional fluidity; it’s only at the very end that we feel we’ve settled in a particular key. “Anything Goes” is Porter at the height of his powers, with all the harmonic and melodic chromaticism that I love about his style.
You’re clearly a fan.
It’s hard to estimate just how influential the songs of Cole Porter have been for me, and for the work I’ve done in the theatre. I know that much of my interest in songwriting, lyric writing, and the Great American Songbook can be attributed to a high school class I took on four American composers/lyricists: Stephen Sondheim, Lorenz Hart, Johnny Mercer, and Cole Porter. Hart and Mercer were almost exclusively wordsmiths, but the other two did both music and lyrics. I loved the wit and sophistication of Porter’s lyrics. There are scant few of us who can relate to Porter’s lavish lifestyle, but I suspect that part of Porter’s appeal is his ability to make us feel a part of that urbane world of cocktail parties and society balls. He makes us feel sophisticated and smart.
The Encore Theatre, 3126 Broad St., Dexter
Show runs through December 23
Showtimes are Thursday, Friday: 7:30pm; Saturday 2pm and 7:30pm and Sunday 2pm. During closing week , December 19-23, shows are Tuesday -Saturday 7:30pm, and Saturday 2pm
For tickets and more info, visit TheEncoreTheatre.org