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Anything Goes at The Theatre Factory

A modestly scaled classic still entertains

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Anytime I see the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes, as I just did at the Theatre Factory, I always wonder what it must have been like sitting at the 46th St. Theatre in Manhattan on Nov. 21, 1934, and hearing, for the first time, “You’re the Top,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “All Through the Night,” “It’s Delovely” and the title tune (sung, no less, by Ethel Merman). D’you think they realized they were watching musical history unfold?

Though the show’s been through a few iterations in its on- and off-Broadway revivals, the central set-up is an ocean liner doing the New York/Southampton run with young lovers, gangsters, an evangelist-turned-chanteuse and other stock comedy characters making mischief on the high seas. (Here’s something that has changed — the original production featured a cast of 61!)

Theatre Factory director F. J. Hartland is working on a much smaller scale. With limits in space, finances and available talent, Hartland aims to mount a pleasant production meant to please friends and family … and, judging by the standing ovation from the opening-night audience, he succeeded.

I do wish everyone could have gone a bit faster (these jokes weren’t new in 1934 … they haven’t gotten any fresher) and that musical director Rob Stull would pick up the tempos (it’s the Jazz Age!), but folks all around me were having a tremendous time.

I salute the comedy chops of Adam Seligson and Alyssa Bruno (who’s also quite a hoofer), Alexandra Swartz’s lovely voice on some of these classic songs and Ashley Harmon, who gets to liven things up with a few brassy Merman tunes.

But I’ve got another question. (Excuse the musical-comedy geekdom; normal types can stop reading.) The original Porter lyric for the title number includes the line “when ev’ry night, the set that’s smart is intruding in nudist parties in studios. Anything goes” (with the triple rhyme of “trude,” “nude” and “stude”). But in the 1962 off-Broadway production, the line was changed to “when ev’ry night, the set that’s smart is indulging in ...”, ruining the rhyme. It’s been sung that way ever since, and it really bothers me.

Why are you laughing?

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