Anything Goes on an ocean liner: musical comedy as a carnivalistic heterotopia

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    This article argues that the ocean-liner setting of the 1934 Broadway musical Anything Goes provides a rich place from which to explore how such seemingly frivolous musical comedy can otherwise be viewed as socially discursive and critical. It explores the way Anything Goes can be viewed as a typical product of the Great Depression and suggests its function in re-envisioning identities in the face of the apparent failure of the ‘American Dream’. The nature of the carnivalistic comedy offered in the shipboard narrative of Anything Goes further suggests that it offers an important salve for Depression-era anxiety. From this Bakhtinian perspective, Anything Goes is figured as a subversive space for the performance of social deviance of one sort or another. Bakhtin’s vision of carnival spaces suggests that musical comedy has an important function in social renewal but it might be too utopian to articulate to ‘real’ society. However, Michel Foucault’s notion of heterotopias allows for a re-connection of Bakhtin’s utopianism with the ‘real’ world and thus serves to show that Anything Goes and, indeed, musical comedy more generally might be as vital a location as passenger ships for functional socio-critical discourse.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)326-345
    JournalStudies in Musical Theatre
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


    • Anything Goes,
    • Carnival,
    • Heterotopia,
    • Cole Porter,
    • Roland Barthes,
    • Mikhail Bakhtin,
    • Michel Foucault


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