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Anything Goes

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Lyrics  Cole Porter
Composer  Cole Porter
First performance  21 November 1934
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Book  Guy BoltonP.G. Wodehouse
Productions  1934 Broadway1935 West End1936 Film version1954 Television version1956 Film version1962 Off-Broadway1987 Broadway Revival1989 West End Revival2003 West End Revival2011 Broadway Revival2012 National Tour2013 Buenos Aires2015 UK National Tour2015 Australian National Tour
Awards  Tony Award for Best RevivalDrama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival of a Musical
Characters  Reno Sweeney, Hope Harcourt, Moonface Martin
Lyricists  P. G. Wodehouse, Cole Porter
Playwrights  Russel Crouse, P. G. Wodehouse, Guy Bolton, Howard Lindsay
Similar  P G Wodehouse plays, Musicals

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Anything Goes is a musical with music and lyrics by Cole Porter. The original book was a collaborative effort by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, heavily revised by the team of Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. The story 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. The musical introduced such songs as "Anything Goes", "You're the Top", and "I Get a Kick Out of You."


Since its 1934 debut at the Alvin Theatre (now known as the Neil Simon Theatre) on Broadway, the musical has been revived several times in the United States and Britain and has been filmed twice. The musical has long been a popular choice for school and community productions.

anything goes promo


The original idea for a musical set on board an ocean liner came from producer Vinton Freedley, who was living on a boat, having left the US to avoid his creditors. He selected the writing team, P. G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, and the star, Ethel Merman. The first draft of the show was called Crazy Week, which became Hard to Get, and finally Anything Goes. The original plot involved a bomb threat, a shipwreck, and hijinks on a desert island, but, just a few weeks before the show was due to open, a fire on board the passenger ship SS Morro Castle caused the deaths of 138 passengers and crew members. According to one version, Freedley judged that to proceed with a show on a similar subject would be in dubious taste, and he insisted on changes to the script. However, theatre historian Lee Davis maintains that Freedley wanted the script changed because it was "a hopeless mess." Bolton and Wodehouse were in England at the time and were thus no longer available, so Freedley turned to his director, Howard Lindsay, to write a new book. Lindsay recruited press agent Russel Crouse as his collaborator, beginning a lifelong writing partnership. The roles of Billy Crocker and Moonface Martin were written for the well-known comedy team William Gaxton and Victor Moore, and Gaxton's talent for assuming various disguises was featured in the libretto.

Porter wrote the majority of Anything Goes in the Rosecliff mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, while staying as a houseguest there.


Four versions of the libretto of Anything Goes exist: the original 1934 libretto, the 1962 revival libretto, the 1987 revival libretto, and the 2011 revival libretto. The story has been revised, though all involve similar romantic complications aboard the SS American and feature the same major characters. The score has been altered, with some songs cut and others reassigned to different scenes and characters, and augmented with various Porter songs from other shows.

Original 1934 libretto

Act I

Billy Crocker, a young Wall Street broker, has fallen in love at first sight with a beautiful girl he met in a taxi. His boss, Elisha J. Whitney, is preparing to make a business deal and is going to travel to London aboard the SS American. Evangelist turned nightclub singer Reno Sweeney will be traveling aboard the same ship. Billy sees Reno as a friend, but she obviously has feelings for him ("I Get A Kick Out of You"). Billy goes to the dock to say farewell to his boss and Reno ("Bon Voyage"), and glimpses the mysterious girl again. He learns that she is heiress Hope Harcourt and, escorted by her mother, Mrs. Harcourt, is on her way to England with her fiancé Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, a handsome but stuffy and hapless British nobleman. Billy stows away on the ship in hopes of winning Hope's heart. "Moonface" Martin, a second-rate gangster labeled "Public Enemy 13," and his girlfriend, Bonnie, have disguised themselves as a minister and a missionary and, innocently aided by Billy, board the ship under their assumed identities, stranding the ship's real chaplain back at the port. Moonface and Bonnie mistakenly leave behind their leader, "Snake Eyes" Johnson, Public Enemy 1.

To thank Billy, Bonnie and Moonface let him have Snake Eyes Johnson's passport and ticket without telling him to whom they belong. Billy cons Evelyn into leaving him alone with Hope, by convincing him he is very ill. When he goes to get some air, Billy and Hope meet again, and it turns out she has been unable to stop thinking about him as well ("All Through The Night"). Though Hope prefers Billy, she insists she must marry Evelyn, though she gives no reason. Unbeknownst to Billy, her family's company is in financial trouble and a marriage to Evelyn would promote a merger and save it. The ship's crew gets a cable from New York saying that Public Enemy 1 is on board. Moonface admits his true identity to Billy and he and Bonnie conspire to disguise Billy as a crew member since he is now presumed to be Snake Eyes Johnson.

A quartet of lovelorn sailors comfort themselves with the thought of romance when they reach shore ("There'll Always Be a Lady Fair"). On deck, Bonnie lures the sailors to her ("Where Are The Men?"), then steals the clothes of one of the men for Billy.

Hope discusses her impending marriage with Evelyn and discovers that he is not particularly pleased with the engagement either. Billy asks Reno to help separate Evelyn and Hope, and she agrees. Billy and Reno reaffirm their friendship, ("You're the Top"). Reno tries to charm Evelyn, she succeeds, and he invites her for a drink in his cabin. She and Moon plot that Moon should burst into the cabin and discover Reno half-naked in Evelyn's arms, providing sufficient reason for breaking off the engagement. However, when Moon breaks into the room, machine gun in tow, he instead sees Reno fully dressed and Evelyn nearly undressed. Moon tries to invent some indecent explanation for the situation, but Evelyn insists that he would be quite pleased by any rumor depicting him as a passionate lover, especially if Hope heard it. Moon admits that the plot has failed.

The crew discover that Billy is not a sailor, and Moon and Reno create a new disguise for him from a stolen pair of trousers, a jacket taken from a drunken passenger, and hair cut from Mrs. Harcourt's Pomeranian and made into a beard. Reno tells Billy that Evelyn has kissed her, and she is sure she will be Lady Oakleigh soon, since love moves so quickly these days ("Anything Goes"). Mrs. Harcourt, recognizing her dog's hair, angrily pulls off Billy's beard and the crew and passengers realize he must be the wanted man. As Snake Eyes Johnson, Billy is an instant celebrity.

Act II

Billy is honored by both crew and passengers as "Public Enemy Number One." He tells the Captain that Moon (who is still disguised as a minister) is helping him reform from his wicked ways. Moon is asked to lead a revival in the ship's lounge. The passengers confess their sins to the "Reverend", and Lord Evelyn admits to a one-night stand with a young Chinese woman, Plum Blossom. Hope is not impressed with Billy's charade, and to please her, he confesses to everyone that he is not really Snake Eyes Johnson. Moon attempts to compensate by revealing that he is not a minister; he is Public Enemy Number Thirteen. The captain sends them both to the brig. Reno restores the mood of the Revival ("Blow, Gabriel Blow").

Moon tries to cheer Billy up ("Be Like the Bluebird"). Billy doubts he will ever see Hope again; he and Moon cannot leave their cell until they return to America. Their card-playing Chinese cellmates, imprisoned for conning all the third class passengers out of their money, will be put ashore in England. Moon and Billy challenge them to a game of strip poker, win their clothes, and disguise themselves again.

Billy, Moon, and Reno show up at the Oakleigh estate in Chinese garb. Billy and Moon tell Oakleigh's uncle that they are the parents of "Plum Blossom" and threaten to publicize Evelyn's indiscretion if he does not marry her. Oakleigh offers to buy them off and Moon gleefully accepts the cash, much to Billy and Reno's chagrin.

Billy and Reno find Hope and Evelyn, who are both unhappy with the prospect of their matrimony. Hope declares that she desperately wants to marry Billy ("The Gypsy in Me"). Billy spots Whitney and finally learns that Evelyn and Hope's planned marriage is really an awkward business merger. Billy realises that Oakleigh is manipulating them all; Hope's company is really worth millions and Billy informs Whitney of that fact. Whitney offers to buy the firm from Hope at an exorbitant price, and she accepts. The marriage is called off since a merger is now impossible. Billy and Hope get married, as do Reno and Evelyn. A cable from the U.S. government fixes Billy's passport problems and declares Moon "harmless." Moon indignantly pockets Oakleigh's check and refuses to return it.


  • Billy Crocker — a young Wall Street broker in love with Hope.
  • Reno Sweeney — An evangelist turned nightclub singer and an old friend of Billy's.
  • Hope Harcourt — An American debutante and the object of Billy's affection.
  • Moonface Martin — a second-rate gangster, "Public Enemy Number 13"
  • Lord Evelyn Oakleigh — Hope's wealthy and stuffy English fiancé
  • Mrs. Evangeline Harcourt — Hope's haughty and overbearing mother
  • Bonnie/Erma — Moonface's girlfriend
  • Elisha J. Whitney — Ivy league Wall Street banker, Billy's boss.
  • Reno's Angels (Purity, Chastity, Charity and Virtue). (1934 original and 1962 revival / 2002 concert and 2011 revival) - Reno's back up singers.
  • Ritz Quartette (1934 original) / Lady Fair Quartet (1987 revival)
  • Ching and Ling ("Luke" and "John" in the 1987 revival and 2002 concert) — Two Chinese 'Converts' and reformed gamblers who accompany Bishop Henry T. Dobson
  • Captain, Steward, Purser on the ship
  • The Right Reverend, Bishop Henry T. Dobson
  • Ships crew, Passengers, Reporters, Photographers and F.B.I. Agents
  • Musical numbers

    This chart shows all songs that were performed; placement of the songs varied. Source:Internet Broadway Database listing


    The musical had a tryout in Colonial Theatre (Boston), before opening on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on November 21, 1934. It ran for 420 performances, becoming the fourth longest-running musical of the 1930s, despite the impact of the Great Depression on Broadway patrons' disposable income. Directed by Howard Lindsay with choreography by Robert Alton and sets by Donald Oenslager, it starred Ethel Merman as Reno Sweeney, William Gaxton as Billy Crocker and Victor Moore as Moonface Martin.

    West End

    Charles B. Cochran, a British theatrical manager had bought the London performance rights during the show's Boston run, and he produced it at the West End's Palace Theatre. The musical opened on June 14, 1935 and ran for 261 performances. The cast included Jeanne Aubert as Reno Sweeney (the name changed to Reno La Grange, to suit Aubert's French background), Sydney Howard as Moonface Martin and Jack Whiting as Billy Crocker. P. G. Wodehouse was engaged to replace the specifically American references in the book and lyrics with references more appropriate to an English audience.

    1962 Off Broadway revival

    The production was revived in an Off Broadway production in 1962, opening on May 15, 1962 at the Orpheum Theatre. It was directed by Lawrence Kasha with a cast that included Hal Linden as Billy Crocker, Kenneth Mars as Sir Evelyn, and Eileen Rodgers as Reno Sweeney. For this revival, the script was revised to incorporate several of the changes from the movie versions. Most changes revolved around the previously minor character Bonnie. This revision was also the first stage version of Anything Goes to incorporate several songs from other Porter shows: "Take Me Back to Manhattan" from The New Yorkers, 1930, "It's De-Lovely" from Red Hot and Blue, 1934, "Friendship" from DuBarry Was a Lady, 1939, and "Let's Misbehave" from Paris, 1928.

    1987 Broadway revival

    For the 1987 Broadway revival, John Weidman and Timothy Crouse (Russel's son) updated the book and re-ordered the musical numbers, using Cole Porter songs from other Porter shows, a practice which the composer often engaged in. The music was rescored for a 16-piece swing band, in the style of early Benny Goodman, instead of the earlier 28-piece orchestrations. This production opened at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, in Lincoln Center, on October 19, 1987, and ran for 784 performances. With direction by Jerry Zaks and choreography by Michael Smuin, it starred Patti LuPone as Reno Sweeney, Howard McGillin as Billy, Bill McCutcheon as Moonface, and Anthony Heald as Lord Evelyn; Leslie Uggams and Linda Hart were replacement Renos. It was nominated for ten Tony Awards (including nominations for McGillin, LuPone, McCutcheon, and Heald), winning for Best Revival of a Musical, Best featured actor (McCutcheon), and Best Choreography. The production also won the Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Revival of a Musical and LuPone won the Outstanding Actress award.

    1989 West End revival

    When British actress/singer Elaine Paige heard of the success of the 1987 Broadway production, she attended a performance of it and was determined to bring the show to London. To secure a place in the show's cast, Paige decided it was best she co-produced the show with her then partner, lyricist Tim Rice. The London production opened in July 1989 at the Prince Edward Theatre. Paige starred as Reno Sweeney (she was replaced later in the run by Louise Gold). The original cast also starred Howard McGillin as Billy Crocker (who was replaced later in the show's run by John Barrowman), Bernard Cribbins as Moonface and Kathryn Evans as Erma. The other principals included Ursula Smith, Martin Turner and Ashleigh Sendin.

    Jerry Zaks again directed the production, with scenic and costume design by Tony Walton, lighting by Paul Gallo and sound by Tony Meola. The musical director was John Owen Edwards and the choreographer Michael Smuin.

    The show transferred to Australia the same year and played in both Sydney and Melbourne starring Geraldine Turner in the role of Reno Sweeney.

    2002 Concert

    In April 2002, a one-night-only concert performance of the show was performed at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. Patti LuPone played Reno with Howard McGillin as Billy and Boyd Gaines as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. LuPone and Gaines would later star together in the 2008 Broadway revival of Gypsy. The performance was directed and choreographed by Robert Longbottom with music supervision by David Chase and designs by Tony Walton.

    2002-2003 London and West End revivals

    The National Theatre revived the musical, which opened at the Olivier Theatre on December 18, 2002 and closed on March 22, 2003. The production then transferred to the West End at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, running from September 26, 2003 (in previews) through August 28, 2004. Directed by Trevor Nunn, it starred Sally Ann Triplett, John Barrowman and Yao Chin, (who is now a TV reporter). A cast recording of this production is available.

    2011 Broadway revival

    A revival of the 1987 Broadway rewrite opened on April 7, 2011 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company. Previews began on March 10, 2011. This production was directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall with musical supervision by Rob Fisher, dance arrangements by David Chase and designs by Derek McLane and Martin Pakledinaz. This revival retains much of the 1987 orchestrations by Michael Gibson with some additions from arranger Bill Elliott.

    The show's opening night cast featured Sutton Foster as Reno Sweeney, Joel Grey as Moonface Martin, Laura Osnes as Hope Harcourt, Jessica Walter as Evangeline Harcourt, Colin Donnell as Billy Crocker, Adam Godley as Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, John McMartin as Elisha Whitney, Jessica Stone as Erma, Robert Creighton as Purser, Andrew Cao as Luke, Raymond J. Lee as John, and Walter Charles as the Captain. The production was received generally very well by the critics and received a total of nine Tony Award nominations and ten Drama Desk Award nominations, including Best Actress in a Musical, Best Director of a Musical and Best Revival of a Musical. The revival won the Drama Desk Awards and Tony Awards for Best Revival and Best Choreography and Foster won the Drama Desk and Tony Awards for Best Actress in a Musical.

    A cast recording of this production became available as a digital download on August 23, 2011 and it arrived in stores on September 20, 2011.

    Stephanie J. Block took over for Sutton Foster as Reno Sweeney in a limited engagement (November 4–23, 2011) while Foster filmed a television pilot. Block took over as Reno on March 15, 2012, as Foster left the musical to take a role in a television series.

    The production was originally scheduled to run through July 31, 2011, and was initially extended to April 29, 2012. It was extended two more times before closing on July 8, 2012 after 521 regular performances and 32 previews.

    2012 US National tour

    A U.S national tour began in October 2012 at Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio and will play more than 25 other major cities. Rachel York plays Reno Sweeney. Other cast-members include Fred Applegate as Moonface Martin, Erich Bergen as Billy Crocker, Jeff Brooks as Purser, Joyce Chittick as Erma, Alex Finke as Hope Harcourt, Dennis Kelly as Elisha Whitney, Vincent Rodriguez III as Luke, Marcus Shane as John, Sandra Shipley as Mrs. Evangeline Harcourt, Edward Staudenmayer as Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, and Chuck Wagner as the Captain.

    2015 UK Tour

    A UK wide tour of the critically acclaimed Sheffield Theatres production was announced in the Summer of 2014. The production starts in the New Wimbledon Theatre January 29, 2015 and visits 32 venues in its nine-month run. The production stars Debbie Kurup (The Bodyguard)as Reno Sweeney and Matt Rawle (Evita) as Billy Crocker. Until April 4, 2015 Hugh Sachs (Benidorm) will star as Moonface Martin and Jane Wymark (Midsomer Murders) will star as Evangeline Harcourt. From the 6 April 2015 these roles will be played by Shaun Williamson (EastEnders) and Kate Anthony (Coronation Street) respectively.

    2015 Australian revival

    An Australian revival was announced in September 2014 with the cast announced to be led by Caroline O'Connor as the evangelist turned night club singer, Reno Sweeney as well as a line-up of performers including Todd McKenny, Alex Rathgeber, Claire Lyon, Wayne Scott Kermond as well as Alan Jones playing the Captain. However, due to prior commitments Jones had to be replaced in Melbourne and Brisbane by Gerry Connolly. The Revival plays in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney sequentially running from June until November. The revival is directed by Dean Bryant.

    2016 Regional revival

    A high-profile co-production between Gateway Playhouse (Bellport, New York) and Ogunquit Playhouse starred Andrea McArdle as Reno Sweeney, and Sally Struthers as Mrs. Harcourt. The production, which ran in May to June 4, 2016, featured the Derek McLane sets, and Martin Pakledinaz costumes that were created for the 2011 Broadway revival, which was produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company. The production was directed by Jayme McDaniel, and was choreographed by Jason Wise.

    Other Productions

    Anything Goes is very popular amongst Amateur Dramatics societies. It is performed all over the world, in many different cultures and societies.

    Movie versions

    In 1936, Paramount Pictures turned Anything Goes into a movie musical. It starred Ethel Merman (again as Reno), with Bing Crosby in the role of Billy Crocker. Other cast members included Ida Lupino, Charles Ruggles, Arthur Treacher, and Margaret Dumont. The director was Lewis Milestone. Among those contributing new songs were Hoagy Carmichael, Richard A. Whiting, Leo Robin, and Friedrich Hollaender.

    The book was drastically rewritten for a second film version, also by Paramount, released in 1956. This movie again starred Bing Crosby (whose character was once more renamed) and Donald O'Connor. The female leads were Zizi Jeanmaire and Mitzi Gaynor. The script departed significantly from the original story and was written by Sidney Sheldon. The lesser-known Porter songs were cut, and new songs, written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn, were substituted. In short, it became a new movie that used some Porter songs.

    Television version

    In 1954, Ethel Merman, at the age of forty-six, reprised her role as Reno in a specially adapted live television version of the musical, co-starring Frank Sinatra as the hero, now renamed Harry Dane, Merman's good friend Bert Lahr (who had co-starred with her on Broadway in DuBarry Was a Lady) as Moonface Martin, and Sheree North. This version was broadcast live on February 28, 1954 as an episode of the Colgate Comedy Hour, and has been preserved on kinescope. It used five of the original songs plus several other Porter numbers, retained the shipboard setting, but had a somewhat different plot. It has been reported that Merman and Sinatra did not get along well; this was the only time they worked together.


    There are many popular cast recordings of the show including:

  • 1935 Original London cast
  • 1936 Studio cast
  • 1950 Studio recording with Mary Martin
  • 1953 Studio cast
  • 1954 Television cast
  • 1956 Film cast
  • 1962 Off Broadway revival cast Hal Linden
  • 1969 London revival cast Marian Montgomery
  • 1987 Broadway revival cast with Patti LuPone and Howard McGillin
  • 1988 Studio cast with Kim Criswell conducted by John McGlinn
  • 1989 Australian revival cast
  • 1989 London revival cast with Elaine Paige
  • 1995 Studio cast with Louise Gold
  • 2003 London revival cast
  • 2011 Broadway revival cast with Sutton Foster
  • For more information about the title song and references to it in popular culture, see Anything Goes (Cole Porter song)
  • Title song was used for PBS' American Experience documentary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt because of the last verse of the song.
  • In the 1972 film What's Up, Doc?, the song "You're the Top" is sung for the opening and closing credits by Barbra Streisand. Ryan O'Neal joins her for the closing credits and this marks his only on-screen singing in a movie. The movie uses at least two other tunes from this musical as background music: "Anything Goes" and "I Get a Kick Out of You", are heard during the first hotel-lobby scene.
  • In the 1974 Mel Brooks film Blazing Saddles, "I Get a Kick Out of You" is performed in a comedic manner by Cleavon Little and the other actors portraying black railroad workers, complete with a full harmony arrangement.
  • "You're The Top" was used in the film Evil Under the Sun, performed by Diana Rigg.
  • In the 1984 film, "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom", Kate Capshaw performs the title song in Mandarin.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Saving Private Brian", the Sergeant trainer claims "Anything Goes" to be one of his most favorite shows. Also, in "Brian: Portrait of a Dog", Lois wants to sing showtunes in the car. She begins to sing "Anything Goes".
  • In an episode of Summer Heights High Mr G cancels a production of "Anything Goes" one week before opening.
  • In the play Dancing at Lughnasa by Irish playwright Brian Friel, the song "Anything Goes" is played on the radio and sung by Gerry Evans to Aggie and Chris. The song basically sums up the entire concept of the play: times changing and people changing with them.
  • In an episode of Gilmore Girls, "You're the Top" is sung with slight lyrical changes.
  • The song "Anything Goes" is played on Galaxy News Radio, a fictional radio station, in the post-apocalyptic video game Fallout 3, as well as the next installment Fallout 4.
  • During the latter half of BioShock, "You're The Top" can be heard playing from a Rapture radio.
  • Title song used as the title of the 2008 autobiography by John Barrowman, who starred as Billy Crocker in 1989, 2002, and 2003.
  • In an episode of Married... with Children called "Can't Dance, Don't Ask Me" Steve teaches Kelly to tap dance to "Anything Goes"
  • In the Mission: Impossible episode "The Fortune" (from the 1988 revival series), the movie was the favorite film of Luis Barazon—one of the targets. Further, the segment of the movie where the title song is performed is "the part he likes the best". Also, the phrase "Anything Goes" was the second level password needed to access Barazon's financial records so that the money the Barazons stole from their country's treasury could be returned.
  • "Anything Goes" was used in a mash-up with "Anything You Can Do" (from Annie Get Your Gun) in the third season premiere of the Fox musical television series Glee.
  • Anything Went was a parody of Anything Goes, partly shown on Mathnet, the rest being left to the viewer's imagination. This episode featured veteran broadway performer Tammy Grimes portraying fictional hammy veteran broadway performer Lauren Bacchanal.
  • In an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, Richie sings "You're the Top" replacing the words "Mona Lisa" with "Mommy Lisa"
  • A cover of the title song was released as a duet by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga in July 2014.
  • In the film Passed Away, the minister sings "You're the Top."
  • Songs

    1Overture: You're the Top
    2Bon Voyage
    3It's De-Lovely


    Anything Goes Wikipedia