Meghan Murphy gets a kick out of Anything Goes
Sat. January 27, 2024 by Jerry Nunn
I couldn’t believe someone else loved Judy, Liza, Barbra and Bette as much I did, so I have always felt like a gay man on the inside!
meghan murphy and the cast of anything goes
Anything Goes is a top notch musical act.
Cole Porter’s classic Anything Goes is brought back to life by Porchlight Music Theatre’s troupe this winter at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. This peppy story of quirky characters traveling from New York to England on the ocean liner S.S. American has entertained audiences since its 1934 debut. This 90th-anniversary production celebrates songs such as the title track, “You’re the Top” and “I Get a Kick Out of You.”
The multitalented Meghan Murphy takes on the role of nightclub singer Reno Sweeney. It’s the perfect match for someone with a rich background of musical theater credits such as Spamalot, The Who’s Tommy and Mamma Mia!
She is a six-time Joseph Jefferson Award nominee in a show that is already Jeff recommended.
Life is a cabaret for Murphy as she travels around the world regularly entertaining the crowds with her acclaimed one-woman show.
There’s no stopping this Big Red and she sat down after a recent Anything Goes show to tell our readers how everything is coming up roses for her career.
JN: (Jerry Nunn) Where are you from originally?
MM: (Meghan Murphy) I am from the Bay Area and was raised in San Jose, California. I went to school at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee in Massachusetts. I immediately moved to New York City after school. I got in trouble and had the time of my life.
I got a job on a cruise ship and where I met some folks that lived in Chicago. I tried out my one-woman show called Legs in the Windy City and have been here 12 years.
JN: So I have known you the whole time you have lived here?
MM: Oh, yes. I met you right away…
JN: We judged an LGBTQ+ singing competition together at the bars a long time ago.
MM: Yes with my roommate at the time and a rotating panel of people.
JN: Your ex-roommate told me that you once said, “People can make a lot of money just by whistling.”
MM: It’s true!
JN: Have you tried being an expert whistler in the past?
MM: Absolutely not!
JN: Stephen Sondheim says Anyone Can Whistle.
MM: That’s not true!
JN: Anyone can’t snap either. Where did your connection with the LGBTQ+ community start?
MM: It has always been there.
JN: Is it from a family member?
MM: No. The second I found drama class in junior high school I was in. A fun fact about me is I was always quite an athlete growing up. I was really good at soccer and my dad with the coach. He thought his little girl would get a scholarship for school and be a lesbian. I went to high school, was on the varsity team and I got bored. I found drama class and the second I was surrounded by the drama kids I knew they were my people.
From then on I was the first person people came out to a lot, especially in high school and college. I couldn’t believe someone else loved Judy, Liza, Barbra and Bette as much as I did, so I have always felt like a gay man on the inside!
JN: How did you get involved with Anything Goes?
MM: Artistic director Michael Weber sent me an email that said they wanted to include Anything Goes for their season but only if I played their Reno Sweeney. If I couldn’t do it then they would choose a different show. I thought, “Hot damn, that’s a nice offer!”
I didn’t think I could do it because of conflicts. I am a singer on cruise ships just like Sweeney is on this fictitious ship, so it was art imitating life and life imitating art at the same time.
I was working on a ship’s contract when he wrote the email. We worked it all out and I had to do this role.
JN: What is the best and worst thing about performing on a cruise ship?
MM: The best part is seeing the world. The worst part is the basic Betsys who don’t have anything interesting to talk about.
JN: Then you are trapped on a boat with them. I get it! Puerto Vallarta looks like a good gig for you.
MM: It is. There is nothing bad about that gig!
JN: How do you connect with Reno Sweeney and make the role your own?
MM: The first time I read the script I would have said the exact same thing that Reno says or I would have told that exact same joke. It felt like a glove. I’ve known her a long time…
There is always a little pressure with the icons that have played Reno before. It was written for Ethel Merman and made famous by so many divas, Patti LuPone in 1987 and Sutton Foster more recently.
Those are big shoes to fill and Ethel is Ethel, Patti is Patti and Sutton is Sutton, but I am Meghan Murphy so I do Reno my way!
JN: I saw a little devilish look in your eyes at times during the show.
MM: What do you mean? [laughs]
JN: Those were moments it felt completely yours.
MM: I have never seen the show. Is that weird to say?
JN: No, it means you are not copying off of anyone.
MM: I am not. I have seen a few clips from the Tonys, but that is it. I know her. I know how these lines should be said and these songs should be sung. This feels like an old friend.
JN: How do you take care of your voice?
MM: Excellent question, bourbon and tequila, just kidding. I take care of my voice very carefully. It is winter in Chicago so I hydrate. I am having a little warm tea right now as we talk.
It is a lot of maintenance. I am not going to lie. I am not exactly living like a nun…
JN: I live like a Nunn…
MM: I have to get enough sleep and watch my diet, all the glamorous stuff.
JN: You make it look easy.
MM: Bless you.
JN: What is the hardest challenge in Anything Goes for you?
MM: I don’t even break a sweat in this show.
JN: Have done much tap dancing before?
MM: Yes, I have been tap dancing since I was a kid. I have never gotten to do it in my adult life because no one has ever asked. I am so excited to show Chicago that after 12 years I can also do this.
JN: Did Chicago know you can do the splits?
MM: I have been doing the splits forever too. Someone came to the show the other day and was surprised by that. I am full of surprises.
JN: “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” really stands out in this production from previous versions I have seen.
JN: Are you exhausted after performing some of these numbers?
MM: I am energized after the show. I am giving away all of my secrets here. What is so genius about some of the writing in Anything Goes is that it ramps up and keeps ramping up until I am done. The book has fast pacing right away, but it starts with a mellow song and eases into it.
I could do this show for 10 years. It feels that comfortable already and this is just our second week of performing for audiences.
JN: Is there one musical that you would like to do, but haven’t yet?
MM: Gypsy. I always thought that would fit like a glove, but now I think it has been Reno this whole time. The show doesn’t have to get depressing as Anything Goes doesn’t go there. It is so fabulous to do this iconic role that is literally just fun.
I come in with a good attitude and I walk out with a better one. I am spreading a joy bomb to everyone. It is the best job ever!
JN: I love that! There are many members of the LGBTQ+ community in this cast. It is a showpiece for you, but I was happy to see everyone have their moment.
MM: For sure. I think the casting is spot-on for everybody.
JN: Get Jerod Turner in front of Ryan Murphy immediately!
MM: Say that for the people in the back of the room.
JN: is Gypsy your favorite musical of all time?
MM: I think it is. I have a top five. I would love to do Into the Woods. I would play several characters if given the chance. I love Chicago and have played Velma Kelly before. I could play her or Mama Morton. I am starting to get to the age that I have always felt I’ve been. Even at age 21, I was singing like Ethel Merman. That was not appropriate, but now it is becoming that.
JN: You are coming into your own and growing into this powerhouse. When I see you at Hollywood Beach I don’t think of you as this incredible singer.
MM: How dare you! [laughs]
JN: I just love you as a person and my friend. I was looking at your website and the clips are impressive.
MM: I made that website myself, thank you very much.
JN: Did you? Come through meghanmurphybigred.com! Do you have another project lined up after this?
MM: I am heading back to Puerto Vallarta at The Palm. Last year I had a full winter residency, but this year because of this, I am bookending it. I did a month this past November and will come back in March.
It is different every year, I have always loved the artist P!nk and thought this would be catchy to have my nickname Big Red go P!nk. It will be her songs in the show.
This is my schedule, we close on March 10, I get on a plane on March 11 and my first show is on March 12.
JN: That is a whirlwind! The color pink is the hot color with Barbie so everyone can dress up for your show.
MM: Yes, put it everywhere.
JN: You post a lot of wigs on Instagram. Do you have a wig wall?
MM: I don’t have a wig wall, but I have a basket of beach wigs.
JN: Do you name them?
JN: Give me one name…
Anything Goes has extended until March 10, 2024, at Porchlight Music Theatre, 1016 North Dearborn Street. Visit PorchlightMusicTheatre.org or call 773-777-9884 for tickets and information.