Before Céline Dion wailed that her heart would go on (and on), “Anything Goes” showed audiences the shenanigans that happen on an iceberg-less pan-Atlantic ship crossing. Erich Bergen stars as the show’s romantic lead when the legendary Cole Porter musical pulls into port at the Wharton Center next Tuesday.
“The ship keeps everyone in a confined space,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s putting on disguises and hiding and opening and closing doors. That’s where the comedy comes from.”
In this revival of the 1934 musical, a crew of sailors, gangsters, aristocrats and star-crossed lovers take to the decks of the S.S. American as it sails from New York to London. Kathleen Marshall, who won the 2011 Tony Award for Best Choreography, directs this Roundabout Theatre Co. production, which features Porter´s original music and lyrics. Bergen stars as Billy Crocker, a young Wall Street worker who falls in love with Hope, an engaged debutante played by Alex Finke.
“Billy is a street kid,” Bergen said. “He watched how the other guys do it—how they dressed and how they talked and he faked it until he started believing it himself.”
Since its debut, “Anything Goes” has had three runs on Broadway, three more in the West End and one Off-Broadway and has been made into a TV movie and two feature films. Bergen said that this production is mostly modeled after the 1987 revival, but even before that the play had gone through significant plot and song changes. He says that makes each production is unique, including his take on Billy.
“I’m (playing the role as) a lot more silly,” he said. “As smooth as Billy tries to be, he’s not.”