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Who has played Reno Sweeney in 'Anything Goes'?

Sophie Thomas
Sophie Thomas

With Anything Goes in London, we felt it was time to share our favorite Reno Sweeney performances from the hundreds of productions. Since Anything Goes premiered on Broadway over 80 years ago, these delightful and de-lovely performances are so easy to love. Baby, if we’re the bottom, then these actors are the top!

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Sutton Foster

Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2011 revival of Anything Goes at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre took audiences to a whole new level of nautical campiness; Sutton Foster’s Reno Sweeney was described by Ben Brantley in The New York Times as “a big, gleaming presence that floods the house,” and earned her a second Tony Award.

Patti LuPone

No listicle about leading ladies can be started with anyone but Patti Ann LuPone. Her 1987 turn as Reno Sweeney at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center won her the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress, and listening to her belt the show’s famous title number at that year’s Tony Awards it’s easy to see why.

Elaine Paige

In addition to coproducing the 1989 West End revival of Anything Goes at London’s Prince Edward Theatre, Elaine Paige also took on the show’s most famous role to critical acclaim. In the Daily Telegraph, Charles Osborne raved, “Elaine Paige carries the show magnificently,” adding that she delivered the show’s demanding songs “with a power that equals [Ethel] Merman’s.”

Jeanne Aubert

The original West End Reno, Jeanne Aubert remains the only actor to play the role under a different character name; Reno La Grange. The change was one of several made by the acclaimed British author P. G. Wodehouse to the original book in order to make the show more accessible to an English audience.

Stephanie J. Block

Initially standing in for Sutton Foster for just three weeks, Stephanie J Block’s performance was such a hit with audiences that she returned to the role for the final four months of the run. The timing of her initial engagement was such that she performed “You’re the Top” on the Thanksgiving Day Parade, introducing the whole country to her unique and winning turn as Reno Sweeney.

Andrea McArdle

When it was announced that Andrea McArdle was going to be stepping into the role for a new production of Anything Goes, every theatre kid who grew up watching Annie set sail for Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine. Her unique and instantly recognizable voice breathed new life into Porter’s 82-year-old score, winning her praise from critics including a glowing review in the Press Herald in which she was described as being “simply perfect in the role.”

Ethel Merman

Sometimes there’s no beating the original. Ethel Merman opened the original production of Anything Goes on Broadway in 1934, in the first of what would turn out to be five leading roles she would take on in Cole Porter musicals. She went on to reprise her role in the 1936 film version, but not without a fight.

Bing Crosby made his appearance in the film conditional on his wife Dixie Lee being handed the role of Reno Sweeney, and the role wasn’t given back to Ethel until Dixie unexpectedly dropped out of the role after shooting had already begun.

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