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Theatre / Anything Goes

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Reno Sweeney: They think he's Gangster # 1,
So they made him the favorite son!
And that goes to show
Anything Goes!

A musical first performed in 1934 with songs by Cole Porter and a book by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse. Anything Goes takes place aboard a transatlantic cruise and follows the antics of a number of unusual passengers, including evangelist-turned-nightclub singer Reno Sweeney (originally played by Ethel Merman), hapless would-be gangster "Moonface" Martin, disguised as a pastor (originally played by Victor Moore), and Billy, a self-described "broken down stockbroker" who stowed away in the hopes of thwarting his girlfriend Hope's Arranged Marriage to Upper-Class Twit Evelyn Oakley. Famous songs from the show include the title song, as well as "You're the Top" and "I Get a Kick Out of You". "Friendship" is also well known, but it's not originally from this show.

It received major revivals on Broadway twice, first in the 1960s in a version that interpolated songs from a number of Porter's other shows, and again in the 1980s in a version that stayed closer to the original musical in terms of songs, although not necessarily in terms of script. A third Broadway revival came out in 2011, based on the 1980s revival. It won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.

Not to be confused with the opening theme for Kamen Rider OOO. Or the style of martial arts practiced by Ranma ½.

"Now Heaven knows, anything tropes!":

  • Adaptational Badass: Of a sort with Reno. In prior productions, she would often let the ensemble do the heavy dancing, but once Sutton Foster played her, she not only led the dancing, but she did so with greatly expanded dance breaks. It’s now uncommon to cast a Reno who can’t dance after Foster’s performance.
    • This also applies to other characters in the 2011 Broadway production, with Billy, Hope, Evelyn, and Erma all getting the chance to show off their moves thanks to the longer music breaks implemented during their numbers. Even Moonface engages in an entirely new dance break during “Be Like the Bluebird”.
  • The Alcoholic: Eli. If the actor playing him doesn’t seem wasted for literally the entire show, he’s doing it wrong.
    Eli: There was a time when I drank.
    Moonface: What do you do now, use a funnel? (alternately: "When was that, thirty minutes ago?")
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Averted with both Reno and Hope. Both their respective love interests are the exact opposite of this, and Reno briefly addresses the ridiculousness of this trope in the show-stopping title song.
    Reno: The world has gone mad today, and good's bad today,
    when most guys today, that women prize today,
    are just silly gigolos!
    • However, while Reno is attracted to Evelyn beforehand, she truly falls for him after he shows his wild side in “Gypsy in Me”. Hope however is a more clear aversion, as she’s repeatedly upset by Billy’s amoral hijinks, but she finally realizes that she loves him after he drops the bad boy act and apologizes to her.
    • The other female passengers play this straight, as they’re very quick to crowd around Billy when they think he’s a gangster, and one of Reno’s angels marries Moonface after he reveals himself as a public enemy.
  • Arranged Marriage: Between Hope and Evelyn.
  • As You Know
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Many productions have Moonface pretend to confront Evelyn for blackmail purposes... in a flat, monotone voice.
  • Bad Habits: Moonface Martin's priestly disguise (although notably, he is NOT disguised as a Roman Catholic priest).
  • Beta Couple: Evelyn and Reno. An interesting example since Reno is the show’s star.
  • Better as Friends:
    • While Reno loves Billy, she’s willing to help him in his efforts to woo Hope. Lucky for her, her attempts to help causes her to fall in love with Evelyn instead.
    • Hope and Evelyn are both quite quick to help each other get out of their Arranged Marriage and pair up with their Love Interests instead.
  • Blackmail: Reno and Moonface try to do this to Evelyn to get him to break it off with Hope.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Mr. Whitney, a fact exploited by Moonface.
  • Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Evelyn's attempts at learning American idioms.
  • Bowdlerize: The "Some get a kick from cocaine" section from the chorus is frequently either replaced with bowdlerized lyrics or chopped out of the song entirely, especially in high school productions (the "official" bowdlerization — changed for the movie due to The Hays Code, and recorded by Frank Sinatra — is "Some like the perfume in Spain", which fits the rest of the lyric about sniffing it). Cole Porter being Cole Porter, easily offended directors can easily find many more lines to alter or excise from the lyrics, not to mention the book.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: in this YouTube video of the 2021 West End version of the show, around 52 minutes in, the actors start bickering about what's going on, notice the audience, get awkward…
  • Brick Joke: In many productions, a bishop gets arrested in place of Moonface at the beginning. It's implied this may be the reason Moonface is taken off the wanted list at the end.
  • Butt-Monkey: Quite a few actually, with Billy, Moonface, Hope, Evangeline, Eli, the Captain, the Purser, and John all suffering from their share of misfortune.
    • Evelyn is like a reverse Butt-Monkey. Despite the world being out to get him, he remains almost entirely unbothered and happy.
  • Catchphrase: Moonface’s being “there’s something wrong here”.
  • Chick Magnet: Hope and Reno are both in love with Billy (though the latter gets over him), and he's shown to have a few other ladies interested as well. He gets even more women fawning over him once they believe he's Public Enemy #1.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: As is standard Romantic Comedy fare.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Evelyn is a strange guy.
  • Covert Pervert: While he’s tasteful about it, Evelyn shows some signs of this, with all examples involving Reno. Once he realizes her plan was to get caught sleeping with him, he declares the idea exciting, he cheerfully tells everyone at her service about his “Romp in the rice” in China, he cheers when she starts to disrobe into a revealing outfit, and he woos her through a song and dance.
  • Crowd Song: "Anything Goes" and "Public Enemy Number One".
    • Bon Voyage is the number which is entirely led by the ensemble with solos.
  • Culturally Sensitive Adaptation: While slight progress had been made in prior productions, the 2021 West End revival made alterations to the Chinese characters so that they wouldn't come across as so stereotypical anymore. Additionally, they now help the main characters by willingly switching clothes and posing as Plum Blossom's lawyers.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Reno, Moonface, and Erma.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: The show never makes it quite clear what happens after “Gypsy in Me”. Evelyn reveals himself to be in love with Reno who then falls for him as well, and there’s often disrobing (of both characters) and a kiss that occurs during the dancing. Given the sexual nature of the scene, it’s not a stretch to assume that Reno and Evelyn spent the night together. Productions can definitely imply this as Reno may show up in the next scene in a different state of dress compared to before. One thing that is clear though is that “Gypsy in Me” takes place at night while the following scene takes place early in the morning, which would definitely give Reno and Evelyn enough time to have a “Romp In The Rice”.
  • Dirty Old Man: Eli’s quite a shameless flirt towards Evangeline, and is very quick to invite her into his room.
    • It’s not too uncommon for an older actor to play Moonface, who hooks up up with one of Reno’s angels. In the 2011 revival, he spanks two of their behinds during a dance break.
  • Driven to Suicide: Mr. Harcourt during the Great Stock Market Crash of 1929. "He jumped like a Yale man."
    • After Billy’s thrown in the brig and seemingly lost Hope for good, he seems to be considering this. Moonface is not amused.
  • Dude Magnet: Reno, to the extent that she’s not used to men not falling for her.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
  • The Family for the Whole Family: Moonface is a luckless and perfectly harmless gangster who decides to help Billy out with his romantic troubles.
  • Fratbro: Eli still acts like one despite his college days being long behind him.
  • Funny Foreigner: Luke, John, and Evelyn Oakley.
  • Finish Dialogue in Unison: "What was [Mrs. Harcourt's dog] doing in the swimming pool?" The entire cast, (in some cases, including the band) responds: THE DOG PADDLE!!!
  • George Jetson Job Security: Elijah Whitney, according to Billy, hires and fires him every eight minutes.
  • Girl Friday: Subverted by Bonnie/Erma, who does nothing but cause trouble for Moonface.
  • Gold Digger: Hope's mom becomes one when she marries Eli to get out of poverty.
    • Hope herself acts as one, as she’s only engaged to Evelyn because he’s rich. This is downplayed, however, as Hope is forced into this role by her mother.
  • Go Seduce My Archnemesis: Reno is sent to lure Evelyn away so Billy can woo Hope. It… doesn't work.
  • Gospel Revival Number: "Blow Gabriel Blow".
  • The Great Depression
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Between Reno and Moonface during “Friendship”.
  • Happily Married: Reno and Evelyn come across as the happiest couple, as they hit it off with each other very quickly, have more in common than it initially seems, and are never shown to have the same relationship issues as the other two couples.
    • Billy and Hope are still a legitimate example of this. While they do argue quite a bit throughout the show, it’s still made clear that they’re nuts about each other, and their prior problems are solved by the end, implying that their relationship drama started and ended on the boat.
    • Subverted with Eli and Evangeline. Both of them come across as genuinely happy together, but the only reason they’re even getting married is because she’s a Gold Digger.
  • Harmless Villain: Moonface.
  • Have a Gay Old Time "Blow Gabriel Blow", especially the line "Will you be ready to go when I blow my horn."
  • Hero Antagonist: The Captain and Purser repeatedly get in the way of our main characters' happiness, but given that our heroes are causing all kinds of drama and riling people up, can you really blame them?
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Billy and Moonface.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Reno makes fun of career women, despite being one herself.
  • Jerkass: Evangeline is a Rich Bitch with an It's All About Me attitude. She forces her daughter to marry a man she doesn't love, and when that doesn’t work, she marries Eli, purely because he’s rich.
    • Erma’s not as bad, but she’s self-absorbed, rude, blatantly uses men for sex, and unlike her partner in crime Moonface, she’s fairly disloyal, being quick to dump Snake Eyes and leaving Billy and Moonface to rot in the brig.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Reno is quite brash and never afraid to speak her mind, but she’s willing to help Billy court Hope, even though she loves him.
    • Moonface is a gangster and believes Murder Is the Best Solution, but he also stays loyal to Reno and Billy and helps them get their happy endings, even though he personally has nothing to gain from doing so.
  • Idiot Houdini: Evelyn’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, but despite more than half of the main characters either plotting against him or using him, he ends the show unscathed and as happy as ever.
    • This also applies to the similarly gullible Eli. He may be a Butt-Monkey, but he still pulls this trope off near the end. At the beginning of the show, he tells Billy to sell all of his shares of Amalgamated Prestoleum, something Billy neglects to do when he boards the ship. At the end, when Billy tells him that he didn’t sell the shares, Whitney laments that he’s financially ruined, right before hearing that Amalgamated went through the roof, making him even richer than before. If it wasn’t for Billy screwing up, Eli would’ve gone broke.
  • The Ingenue: Hope.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Actually created by Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends. Hope's mother gets all the wealth she wanted without having to even apologize to Hope for trying to force her into marriage. But at least Whitney's happy.
    • Moonface, despite being a gangster and a criminal (albeit of the Harmless Villain variety), gets away completely scot-free for his crimes (although he's only Public Enemy number thirteen). Which is cleaned up even nicer at the end when he gets a telegram saying they've dropped him off the list entirely.
  • Kick the Dog: A few examples, all Played for Laughs.
    • Quite literal when it comes the treatment of Evangeline’s dog Cheeky, with Billy and Moonface shaving him to create a Paper-Thin Disguise, and Moonface throwing him into the pool as revenge for the pooch’s biting him. Something that Billy calls him out on.
    • Billy, Moonface, and Reno’s plots against Evelyn are rather mean-spirited, given they try framing, blackmailing, and threatening a Nice Guy just because he’s engaged to Hope, who he appears to be decent to. After realizing he’s harmless and dorky, Reno even apologizes. Fortunately for Evelyn, he’s unaware and unbothered by these schemes, and winds up benefiting from them.
    • There’s also Evangeline moving up the date of Hope and Evelyn’s wedding as soon as she realizes Billy and Hope are an item. When Hope tries to intervene, Evangeline moves it up even closer by half an hour.
  • Large Ham: Reno and Moonface both try to outdo each other during their duet.
    • Reno in general has a very big personality that screams “look at me”. This is especially noticeable during her lively sermon and performance of “Blow Gabriel Blow”.
    • When you combine Moonface’s generally angry disposition and penchant for disguises and deception, it’s safe to say that he applies to this trope in general as well.
    • Billy is usually The Straight Man to the others, but their hamminess seems to rub off on him, as he follows in Moonface’s footsteps by taking on increasingly ridiculous disguises, with his performances being appropriately over the top.
    • Evelyn can easily come across as this due to his Cloudcuckoolander personality. It’s pretty much a necessity that he chews a bit of scenery during “Gypsy in Me”.
    • Evangeline is also open to this interpretation, given she’s a Rich Bitch who suffers from several fits of hysteria.
    • Eli is quite possibly the most consistently hammy character, as he’s in a perpetual state of drunkenness and acts like he’s still in college despite having long since graduated.
  • Let's Duet: "It's De-Lovely." Some versions also have "Let's Misbehave."
  • Lovable Rogue: Moonface.
  • Malaproper/My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Evelyn, who is trying to learn and understand American slang, without much success.
  • Merchandise-Driven by the songs.
  • Mr. Fanservice:
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • Reno’s sexy, and she knows it. Anything Goes just isn’t Anything Goes if the leading lady isn’t dressed in an assortment of jaw-dropping outfits.
    • Erma is also usually played by a stunner, as to be expected when her promiscuity is her defining trait.
    • Hope may be be more reserved when it comes to her sexuality, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a production where she’s not played by a beautiful actress wearing beautiful dresses.
    • Reno’s angels are expected to look and dress in a similarly attractive manner to their boss.
  • The Napoleon: There’s nothing in the script that indicates Moonface’s height, but he’s often played by an actor on the short side. Combine that with his temper, and you have this trope.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Reno is a parody of Aimee Semple McPherson.
  • No Reprise, Please: Moonface sings "Be Like the Bluebird" to cheer Billy up after they're thrown in the brig. When Chinese converts Luke and John are thrown into the same brig, Moonface begins to sing it again, but Billy stops the reprise.
    Moonface: You know your problem, kid? You ain't got no philosophy! There's an old Australian—
    Billy: Would you forget about that?!
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The "Amalgamation Deal" Mr. Whitney was working on is never explained in detail.
    • When Billy and Hope are reminiscing about the night they met, Hope mentions they spent 4 hours driving around town in the back of a taxi. Billy replies, "Five. You fell asleep after—" to which Hope cuts him off, "I remember." What happened in the taxi, stayed in the taxi.
  • Nice Guy: Lord Evelyn Oakleigh.
    • Despite the rest of the cast either insulting him, taking advantage of him, or scheming against him, Evelyn is impeccably friendly and good-natured towards everyone he meets. It helps that he’s almost entirely oblivious to their actions against him. This is best represented when Moonface tries to Blackmail him and threatens him with a gun. Believing that Moonface was doing so to protect Reno, Evelyn responds by telling Moonface how much he admires him, and tells him “I’ve got hot pants for you”.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Reno for Billy, Moonface for Reno. Subverted with Moonface and Erma, as they're stuck together but can't stand one another.
  • Official Couple: Billy and Hope.
  • Oh, Crap!: John when he realizes that Moon is trying to steal his and Luke's clothes in gambling.
  • Only Sane Man: The Captain and the Purser are just trying to keep the ship afloat while all the drama’s going on.
    • Subverted with the Captain, who’s desperate enough have celebrities on his ship that he treats Billy like the guest of honor when he thinks he’s Public Enemy #1.
  • Original Cast Precedent: Moonface was originally played by the 5’7 tall Victor Moore. Since then, he’s been played by many similarly short men such as Joel Grey and Bill Mc Cutcheon.
    • Originally, the actress playing Reno could get away with leaving the heavy dancing to the ensemble, but after Sutton Foster’s Tony winning turn in the role where she led the dance breaks, it’s now expected for the actress playing Reno to be a dancer.
  • Pair the Spares: After Hope and Billy are together, Evelyn and Reno fall in love. One of the things the 1962 revival does better than the others is putting the song "I Get A Kick Out Of You" directly after the scene where Reno attempts to seduce Evelyn. This makes the song about Evelyn as opposed to Billy and shows that Reno is legitimately in love with him.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Billy and Moonface run through several of these in the course of the show. A beard cut directly from the fur of Mrs. Harcourt's dog turns Billy into a convincing George Bernard Shaw.
  • Pep-Talk Song: "You're the Top" is Reno encouraging Billy to go after Hope (despite the fact that she'd rather have him herself).
  • Pep-Talk Song: Both “You’re the Top” and “Be Like the Bluebird”.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Moonface is a gangster, but he’s also quite loyal. Most of the time, anyway.
    • Billy acts like quite a Jerkass to Evelyn, but he helps him get together with Reno in the end.
    • Reno is willing to frame Evelyn, but after being charmed by him, she comes clean about the scam.
    • Evangeline is anything but a Nice Girl, but she has a literal example in that she loves her dog Cheeky. She also checks to make sure that Moonface is okay after Cheeky gives him a Groin Attack.
    • Erma is perfectly fine sleeping around with every sailor she can get her hands on, but when they start proposing to her, she warns them that she’s not the kind of girl they’d want to settle down with.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Reno and Billy, also Reno and Moonface. "Friendship" is pretty much a song about this trope
  • The Pollyanna: Evelyn is almost always in a good mood, even when his circumstances are less than ideal.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Moonface's character was originally named Moonface Mooney, until a Real Life gangster named Moonface Mooney objected.
  • Really Gets Around: Erma
  • Rich Bitch: Evangeline Harcourt, to the extent that she was once played by Lucille Bluth.
  • Russian Reversal: This line from the title song "Anything Goes" provides what may be the Ur-Example for the transpositional pun:
    "Instead of landing on Plymouth Rock
    Plymouth Rock would land on them!"
  • Senseless Violins: Moonface smuggles a Tommy Gun onboard, not that it does him any good. (Though he does win money skeet shooting with it.)
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Billy does this to Reno in a non-romantic sense. He is on the boat under an assumed name when Reno recognises him and calls his name... right as the purser is standing nearby. Billy kisses her to stop her rambling on and giving the game away. Reno doesn't seem to mind, though.
    • A more romantic example occurs in “It’s Delovely” when Hope stops Billy’s singing with a smooch.
  • Sidekick Song: "Be Like The Bluebird" for Moonface
  • Silly Love Songs: Literally every one of Hope’s solos are in love songs.
    • With the exception of “You’re the Top”, this applies to Billy as well.
  • Snipe Hunt: Billy, in disguise as a sailor, sends Mrs. Harcourt to find the "Gullery" when she asks him where the seagulls go to sleep at night.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: On paper, it sounds like the story’s all about Billy and Hope’s romance, and while that is the driving force of the plot, it’s Reno who’s remembered as the star of the show.
    • An even more noticeable case occurred in the 2011 revival. Moonface Martin was played by Broadway legend Joel Grey, resulting in a production where Moonface’s actor got to do more singing and dancing, was given top billing alongside Reno, and got the second to last bow.
  • "Stop Having Fun" Guys: This very much applies to Hope. She starts to let up near the end when she finally stands up to her mother and marries Billy.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: Upon seeing Billy being welcomed as a celebrity when everyone thinks he’s Public Enemy #1, Moonface comes out and says he’s “a Public Enemy too”. When the Purser misheard this as “Public Enemy #2”, Moon neglects to correct him.
  • 13 Is Unlucky: Moonface is unhappy about his position as Public Enemy #13 for this reason.
  • Undying Loyalty: Moonface may be a criminal, but after Billy helps him avoid the cops, he’s repeatedly shown putting his own neck on the line to repay him.
    • Subverted when money’s on the line, as Moonface is perfectly willing to drop his selfless plans when the opportunity to make cash pops up.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Moonface is often played by actors who are either short, older, out of shape, or a combination of all of them. Despite this, he winds up marrying Virtue
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Hot Pants."
  • Upper-Class Twit: Evelyn in most productions, at least until Reno gets her hands on him.
  • Weddings for Everyone: Three of them: Billy and Hope, Reno and Evelyn, and Ms. Harcourt and Whitney. Some productions can add Moon and Bonnie/Erma to this.
  • Zany Scheme: Billy's attempt to keep himself on the boat by posing as Public Enemy Number One "Snake Eyes Johnson".