You might call Kathleen Marshall an old-fashioned kind of gal.
And you'd be right.
The director and choreographer of "Anything Goes," which Broadway in Tucson brings here next week, loves the Cole Porter music in the play, the 1930s style it evokes, and the graceful dancing and jazzy music of that era.
But she figures if a musical set in 1934 is going to fly in this century, a bit of tweaking is necessary.
And she should know: Among the revivals Marshall has directed and/or choreographed are "Wonderful Town" and "Pajama Game," both of which won her Tonys, as did "Anything Goes."
She studied anything she could that was evocative of the era, including the 1936 film of "Anything Goes," starring Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman.
"I relooked at all those old movies to get a sense of the style, to get a sense of the comedy, and to find the rhythm," she says.
"Then we approached it with what's emotionally current. … It was a fun challenge to take this show and meet expectations, and to exceed them."
She reinstated some Cole Porter lyrics, did completely new choreography, charged Timothy Crouse and John Weidman with the script revision, and in 2011 staged a play that honored the original and felt fresh. The New York Times called the production "zesty." New York Magazine dubbed it "a fun machine." And Entertainment Weekly said it is "a gorgeously crafted revival."
"I'm so proud of the show," Marshall says in a phone interview from her New York City home.
"It's a classic musical and a lot of people have seen some version of it. So it was a fun challenge to take this show and meet expectations, and also exceed them."
The story remains basically the same - that is, it's very silly, often funny, and features some amazing Porter tunes.
It takes place on a cruise ship. Reno Sweeney is an evangelist-turned-nightclub singer. Billy Crocker, a friend of Reno's, stows away on the ship when he discovers the woman he has fallen in love with, an heiress, is on board. She is traveling with her stuffy fiancé. Then there is the gangster disguised as a minister. Mistaken identities, deception, love and amazing music by Porter fill the story out.
Classics such as "It's De-Lovely" and "I Get a Kick Out of You" just keep rolling out.
"I was working with great material, and part of my job was not to mess it up," says Marshall.
"You've got Cole Porter songs and beautiful, yearning romantic songs which are sophisticated. You feel you have this great collaborator in Porter."
Broadway shows that take to the road, as this one has, sometimes become smaller, from the orchestra to the sets.
Not so with "Anything Goes," said Marshall.
"The company that produced it on Broadway is producing it on tour," she says. "It's the same size cast, same size orchestra and all the costumes. It's a big, glorious production."
If you go
• What: "Anything Goes"
• Presented by: Broadway in Tucson.
• By: Music and lyrics by Cole Porter; book for the original 1934 stage production by P.G. Wodehouse, Guy Bolton, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse; and new book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman.
• Director: Kathleen Marshall.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 2 and 8 p.m. Nov. 23 and 24; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Nov. 25. No show Thanksgiving Day.
• Where: Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave. in the Tucson Convention Center.
• Cost: $29-$90.
• Reservations/information: broadwayintucson.com or 1-800-745-3000. To avoid the hefty Ticketmaster surcharge, purchase tickets in person at the TCC box office.
• Running time: 2 hours, 45 minutes.
• Cast: Rachel York, Fred Applegate, Erich Bergen, Jeff Brooks and Joyce Chittick.