The musical is based on a book by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse. The setting is on an ocean liner leaving New York City and heading to London. Its passengers include Billy Crocker, a man in love with Hope Harcourt, who is engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Billy’s friends, singer/evangelist Reno Sweeney and gangster Moon Face Martin, help him try to win Hope back.
Laura Floyd first portrayed Hope Harcourt in 2007 with the Lyric at the Ferst Center at Georgia Tech. She said, “I love the Lyric. It’s a fabulous company, and it offers so much to our community.”
Her previous performances with the theater company include roles in “Hello Dolly” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” The songs and an “extraordinarily strong” cast is what drew Floyd back to the Hope Harcourt character. She said, “I love this piece. I was really excited to revisit it.”
Lisa Manuli will make her Lyric debut as Reno Sweeney. She said the reputation of the company drew her in.
“I had heard so many great things from friends who had worked at the Lyric before,” Manuli said. “‘Anything Goes’ is such a great show. I loved it ever since I was introduced to it.”
Manuli said her role is one of a lifetime. She describes Reno Sweeney as levelheaded and the happy medium.
“Out of all the characters in the show, she always has it together,” she said. “You don’t ever really see her freak out or get crazy or excited about something that is out of control.”
Ethel Merman portrayed Reno Sweeney on screen, and Patti LuPone is known for her portrayal of the character on Broadway. Manuli said she studying these performers and others who have taken on this character was valuable.
“There are so many different things that you can study about this production because so many different people have played this role throughout the years,” she said.
Manuli said artistic director Brandt Blocker and choreographer Karen Herbert have helped make this version of Reno Sweeney stand out from previous versions. She said, “They’re not wanting to make (Reno Sweeney) like anyone who’s done it before.”
Tap dancing is also a big part of the production, and Manuli praised Herbert’s talent.
“Karen really has a sense of knowing the specific style of tap that goes along with the time period. It’s very specific and different from more modern stuff,” Manuli said. “Our dancers are just phenomenal.”
The influence of composer Cole Porter in “Anything Goes” is timeless, Manuli said. Porter composed the music and wrote the lyrics to songs such as “I Get A Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top” and the title song.
“Everyone has to know who Cole Porter is even if they don’t realize that they do,” Manuli said. “There are so many standards that he wrote, such beautiful music.”
She said although Porter wrote in an earlier time period than today, the subject matter is timeless.
“He wrote about things people will still continue to feel for years to come. It’s just honest writing,” she said.
“It doesn’t get any better than Cole Porter,” Floyd said. “It’s some of the most clever writing, the way he marries is text and his musical composition. He’s the master of this. He set the bar so high. I think very few people have achieved his level of excellence.”
Both performers said audiences can expect to enjoy themselves. Manuli said, “It’s a fast-paced show. And it’s really, really funny.”
Floyd said musical theater is a part of American culture, and “Anything Goes” is the best example of it.
“It’s one of the strongest pieces of classic musical theater. The set will be fantastic, and the costumes will be gorgeous,” she said. “(People) will leave humming the tunes.”
Blocker will provide stage and musical direction for the show. Performances will take place at The Strand Theatre, 117 North Park Square, Marietta. Performance dates are Sept. 21 to 23, 27 to 30, and Oct. 4 to 7. Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows begin at 8 p.m., and Sunday shows begin at 2 p.m. For more information and to purchase tickets, call (404) 377-9948 or visit www.AtlantaLyricTheatre.com.