|Joel Gray and Sutton Foster in 'Anything Goes'|
One loud, sonorous, authoritative voice said, in the undeniably clipped, dramatic tones that one hears on BBC Radio 4 broadcasts of the Church of England, "Good Lord, that was 'high church on Broadway'."
If that's so, characters Reno Sweeney (played by Sutton Foster) and Moonface Martin (played Joel Gray) are its High Priests.
As the Gospel entire can be summarized in a single sentence (John 3/16), so too can the story line of "Anything Goes", which concerns madcap antics aboard an ocean liner bound from New York to London. Billy Crocker is a stowaway in love with heiress Hope Harcourt, who is engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and Public Enemy #13 Moonface Martin aid Billy in his quest to win Hope.
Like 'high church', it's not so much about "the story" as it is about the drama and the music and the dance steps that support and help tell the story.
It's hard to remember that this play was written and performed in the 1930s, as the country was recovering from the Stock Market Crash. There are a few references to that in the play, but its a social commentary about how people were recovering from the financial crisis by "getting away" on a mid-Atlantic cruise.
Mostly it centers on the idea of "true love" and the way the small band of travelers band together in pursuit of "Hope" - the character and the idea.
I suppose one ought not be surprised, then, that this revival has been extended and is receiving rave reviews. We need this message, this hope, in the midst of our own fragile economic times.
I'm in the midst of visiting friends and family while presiding at Memorial and Graveside Services, so I'll leave you with the words of one of the hymns of this 'high church' service.
If you find yourself tapping your feet and humming along with Reno, then not to worry. You've got the "Spirit".
See you in 'church' . . . or, as they used to say in the 30's 'the funny papers'.
Times have changed,
And we've often rewound the clock,
Since the Puritans got a shock,
When they landed on Plymouth Rock.
Any shock they should try to stem,
'Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock,
Plymouth Rock would land on them.
In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, God knows,
Good authors too who once knew better words,
Now only use four letter words
Writing prose, Anything Goes.
The world has gone mad today
And good's bad today,
And black's white today,
And day's night today,
When most guys today
That women prize today
Are just silly gigolos
And though I'm not a great romancer
I know that I'm bound to answer
When you propose,