When Anything Goes opened at the Alvin Theater on November 21, 1934, everything went so perfectly into place that the enthusiastic audience could never have known the number of last-minute changes -- excessive even by Broadway standards -- made right up until curtain time. Porter delighted in loading his lyrics with up-to-the-minute allusions, many of which are esoteric today even to students of the era. Anything Goes began with a book by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, concerned with the adventures of shipwrecked passengers, which was rendered unusable when the cruise ship Morro Castle burned and sank off the New Jersey coast killing 125. The show was already in rehearsal. Bolton and Wodehouse were unavailable for repairs. In desperation, producer Vinton Freedley turned to the show's director, Howard Lindsay, and Russel Crouse to help him rewrite the script around the existing numbers and sets. The opening was a phenomenal success, scoring rave reviews and running -- in an age when successful musicals played a season or, maybe, two -- for an astounding 420 performances.
Porter was 43 when he wrote the lyrics and music for Anything Goes. Despite the popularity of songs such as "What is This Thing Called Love", "You Do Something to Me", "Love For Sale", "Night and Day", and the superbly crafted lyrics and music for Nymph Errant (1933), he had yet to score a genuinely theatrical success. By chance, the situation comedy buttered in farce and ramshackle in fast-paced gags and wordplay, which Anything Goes turned out to be, played hand-in-glove with the elegance, scattershot satire, and sophisticated explicitness of Porter's lyrics, winged consistently with unforgettable melody. Five numbers became immediate hits -- the brassy "Blow, Gabriel, Blow," sultry "All Through the Night," sinuously beguiling "I Get a Kick Out of You," exuberantly percolating "You're the Top," and, of course, the irresistibly syncopated "Anything Goes." Of these, all but "All Through the Night" were written with Ethel Merman's unusual vocal endowments in mind. And of the remaining numbers, there's not a dud in the lot, nor a dull patch in the score. All contribute scintillations to a heady effervescence epitomizing the era.
Porter would not achieve a success to match Anything Goes, in cohesiveness or consistent inspiration, until -- after having been written off as a has been, a spent force, a relic from another era -- he astounded the world in 1948 with Kiss Me Kate.