Anything Goes was first envisioned by producer Vinton
Freedley while hiding out aboard a fishing boat in the Gulf of
Panama after fleeing the country to escape creditors. His idea
was based on the premise of an ocean liner facing the threat
of a possible shipwreck. He returned to New York and, after paying
off his debts, began assembling his dream team: Cole Porter,
Guy Bolton, P.G. Wodehouse, Ethel Merman. Soon Freedley had a
script that he felt sure would reverse his sagging fortunes.
Then, with rehearsals just about to begin, the S.S. Morro
Castle went down off the coast of New Jersey. Over 125 passengers
lost their lives in the highly publicized disaster. Anything
Goes, Freedley decided, would have to be rewritten.
Anything Goes did not actually appear as the title
until this second draft and referred to the desperation with
which the show was put together. The rewrite retained most of
the same characters, but did away with the idea of the shipwreck.
The plot revolved around nightclub singer Reno Sweeney (Merman),
her pall Billy Crocker, Crocker's debutante-love Hope Harcourt,
Moon-Face Mooney, and Public Enemy No. 13 who slips onto the
ship to avoid the FBI.
Anything Goes opened at the Alvin Theatre on November
21, 1934 and turned out to be the fourth longest running musical
of the 30s. In 1987, it was revived at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre
with Patti LuPone in the leading role and a revised book by Timothy
Crouse and John Weidman. The 1936 screen version starred Ethel
Merman and Bing Crosby.
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