PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Anything Goes — Ship of Evergreens

By Harry Haun
08 Apr 2011

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Donnell, in the demanding male-ingenue spot, may be Marshall's best hat trick here. Billy Crocker is the first role he has ever originated on Broadway. Previously, he replaced in existing shows. "I joined Jersey Boys about a year and a half into the run and played the Hank Majewski track, which means I got to put on a monkey mask and I got to cover a couple of the guys," he explained. "I've been kicking around and doing some good work here and there, but I can't thank Kathleen enough for giving me this chance — and I get to sing those great songs, too."

For Marshall, Donnell was the obvious choice: "He's a real Broadway leading man — moves well, does comedy, sings. He has to do everything, and he does it splendidly.

"When we were casting Billy, we knew we had Sutton and we knew we had Joel, so we were able to find the best Billy we could. Colin auditioned pretty early on, and we were kinda like, 'I think that's the guy.' You know how you don't want to buy the first house you saw so we shopped around a little bit more? Well, we were, like, 'You know that first house we saw? That was the house.' So we brought him back."

Foster made her star entrance fashionably late — on the arm of Bobby Cannavale, who will get his chance to do Star on April 11 when The Motherf**ker with the Hat opens at the Schoenfeld. They met as man-and-wife in their last play, Trust and must like the idea, popping up occasionally as a couple. Another Trustee in attendance: a well-scrubbed Zach Braff.

It was obvious from her dynamo work on stage that Foster had been popping her confidence pills with considerable regularity. "I love that you said that," she replied, "because confidence was really the biggest hurdle that I had to overcome — just the shoes that I was stepping into . . . !" [She can't bring herself to say: Ethel Merman, Patti LuPone, Chita Rivera, et al.] "I had to convince myself that I could do it so that was sorta my journey throughout this whole thing."

One amusing manifestation of her newly reinforced steel-plated confidence is the casualness of her entrances — in spectacular duds by costume designer Martin Pakledinaz. "Oh, this old thing," she seems to be saying to all the gaped mouths.

"Exactly!" laughed Pakledinaz. "It was actually so great to work with her on this role and to make things that Sutton would feel that she owned all the way through. And she does. I don't feel that she is wearing something that I asked her to wear."

So true, seconded Foster. "That's Martin Pakledinaz for you. I was, like, 'I've got to own up to these clothes.' He's a genius. I've never felt more beautiful. I've never felt more glamorous, and I only hope to let a little bit of Reno bleed into my own life."

It could be she seems to be having more fun on stage now because she's suddenly blonde, courtesy of master wig designer Paul Huntley. "That was Kathleen's idea," said Foster, passing along the proper credit, "and we spent some time making sure that we picked the perfect color and style and everything. It does feel transforming. I've seen some clips from the show, and I don't even recognize myself. I look like a completely different person, and it's exciting — that's what it's all about."

Her new blondeness also brings out the brass and brittleness in her tough-talking line-delivery, reminding one at times of that great B-grade comedienne, Iris Adrian.

She and co-star Grey send out sparks like a chemical plant when they go into their "Friendship" routine. "I love working with Sutton, doing that number," he admitted.

Laura Osnes
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

If you peer deeply into his Moonface Martin, you would be semblances of his Mister Cellophane from Chicago or his Tony/Oscar-winning Emcee from Cabaret. It's a realization of his life's work that has kept him going on stage for the past 70 years: "When I started at age nine, my dream was to be a character actor — like Laurence Olivier and Peter Lorre, all the great character guys."

On April 11, his first free day from Anything Goes (if not from The Normal Heart, which he and George C. Wolfe are co-directing for an April 27 Broadway opening at the Golden), Grey goes into his eighth decade, and his past will pass in front of him at the Museum of the City of New York in an exhibition called "Joel Grey: A New York Life," which will be on display him there until Aug. 8.

Pint-sized ball-of-fire Robert Creighton, who churns up some Keystone Kops kind of comedy as the ship purser in pursuit of Grey and Donnell, could have certainly given Lord Oakleigh a hand with his "you dirty rat" imitation. "Cagney's my guy," beamed Creighton, who has concocted a show on the screen legend. "It's a full musical now," he said. "It started as a one-man show, and it's grown into a six-person musical. We've done three productions of it, from Florida Stage in West Palm Beach to two months up in Canada. We're moving closer by the day to New York."

Dowagers seemed to be coming back in style and elegance if Jessica Walter's portrayal of our heroine's marriage-manipulating mother is any criterion. "This is a classic show," she noted. "There are a lot of reasons I wanted to do it — the material, Kathleen Marshall, Roundabout — but those are the main ones."

Osnes, her daughter whose shaky marital plans kept what little plot Anything Goes has up in the air, arrived at the party with her own choice of husband, Nathan Johnson, a photographer and former actor. "We met doing a show together — Aladdin, of all things. We understudied the leads, and they collided and had to go to the hospital, and he and I had to go on stage together."

Seasoned John McMartin, a constant source of fun on stage, staggered out one of his tipsy rich guys (a la High Society). "It's great fun to do," he said. "I'm having the time of my life. I like this guy because you can do anything you want with him — if you make him real. It's delicious nonsense, that's what I like about it."

And he only had praise for his leader. "Kathleen is the best ever. She does it all. She's a great choreographer, a most wonderful director and the sweetest human being."

Charlotte Moore of Irish Rep and McMartin's camp, led the list of loved ones attending the opening, followed by Walter's husband (Ron Leibman), Grey's daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter (Jennifer Grey, Clark Gregg and Stella Gregg) and Stone's hubby (Christopher Fitzgerald, now playing Mr. Mom at home for free). To be sure, How To Succeed's director-choreographer Ashford was there for mentor Marshall.

Late into the party, after other Roundabout shows about town let out, there was an invasion of more actors: Reed Birney, who's brilliant in The Dream of the Burning Boy, as well as an Importance of Being Earnest trio (Brian Murray, Santino Fontana and David Furr).

There also were some Roundabout alum in attendance, starting with the company founder, Gene Feist, director Scott Ellis, Brief Encounter's Hannah Yelland, Speech and Debate's Sarah Steele and Jason Fuchs, Heartbreak House's Philip Bosco, The Visit's Jane Alexander, Mrs. Warren's Profession's Adam Driver, director Walter Bobbie and Bye Bye Birdie composer Charles Strouse with wife Barbara.

Also: Tovah Feldshuh, Peter and the Starcatcher co-director Alex Timbers, Charles Grodin, John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey, Tony winners Julie White and Blair Brown, Tony Roberts and Penny Fuller (from the original run of Barefoot in the Park and together again, still), Stephen Lang, Susan Blackwell, The Book of Mormon's Robert Lopez and wife Kristen, director-relapsing-into-actor Joe Mantello, director Jason Moore (who begins rehearsing his Tales of the City musical Monday in San Francisco), designer Susan Hilferty with hubby David Stein, actor Graham Douglas, composer Stephen Flaherty and lyricist Lynn Aherns (who still don't have a title for their Susan Stroman musical they'll do in June at Lincoln Center), agent Johnnie Planco and wife Lois, Tony winner Michael Cerveris (who has the blood of a horror movie on his hands, "Stake Land," opening soon while he finishes off a third season of "Fringe" and gets ready for a recurring role on HBO's "Treme"), Rachel York, lyricist-director David Zippel, Marylouise Burke andDavid Pittu, Saycon Sengbloh and actresses Camryn Manheim and Carolyn McCormick.

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