Review: Annie Get Your Gun

A show hitting the bullseye

Shooting stars: Jason Donovan as Frank Butler and Emma Williams as Annie

Annie Get Your Gun

Malvern Theatres

*****

By Tim Crowe

ANNIE Oakley, also known as Little Sure Shot, was born in a backwoods home in Ohio, but her legendary and amazing accuracy with the gun resulted in her beating the famed marksman Frank Butler for a €100 bet, but falling in love with him at the same time.

She joined the travelling show, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, became a celebrity and eventually married Frank. Her story is joyfully portrayed in ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ with humour, vigour and brilliant songs by Irving Berlin.

Because her life became wrapped up in the performance world, the theme song of the musical and the design theme for this production focuses on the world of show business. ‘There is no business like show business!’

Consequently the band was placed upstage in full view of the audience and the show opened with an explosion of follow-spots across the stage and the front of the auditorium, and the ‘Show Business’ song began and closed the show.

The American theme was strongly presented: the Stars and Stripes was reflected in the backdrop of the set, the red and white-striped drapes in front of which the lights played in a blue starry pattern from time to time; the accents were well sustained and the atmosphere of the Wild West was comically but convincingly presented.

The song and dance routines were brilliant and varied. Lizzi Gee’s choreography for the show was wonderful, the execution of the dances slick and eye-catching; the dances were underpinned by the excellent, swinging music.

GREAT PANACHE

Jason Donovan leads the male cast as Frank Butler for the early performances on tour and he performed with great panache. But the performance of Emma Williams as Annie stole the show. Her voice was tremendous, the moment when she sustained a strong note for the best part of a minute, to outlast Frank, drew spontaneous applause from the audience twice. She acted, sang and danced brilliantly.

The lead performers were very well supported by the rest of the cast and the subplot, provided by Dolly Tate’s younger sister’s romance, added spice, colour and humour.

Tate, played by Kara Lane, was Frank’s partner who wants him for herself, bansher younger sister, Winnie (Lorna Want) from marrying the love of her life, the show’s knifethrower Tommy (Yiftach Mizrahi) who is half Indian. 

The costumes were very well designed by Karen Large and Charlotte Simpson and added greatly to the atmosphere. Annie’s development was well portrayed through the evolution of her costumes from the rustic character she was at the outset to the more sophisticated public performer of the later scenes.

One of the themes that the play lightly and entertainingly explores is the gender question of roles and relationships. It is difficult for Frank to accept defeat at the hands of a girl/woman, the kind of wife he looked for was a more traditional and genteel type, but Annie challenges those stereotypes in every way. She laments the fact that ‘it is difficult to get a man with a gun’. In the end their relationship is secured on the basis of a balance more acceptable in modern society.

This is great family entertainment; it gets stronger as it progresses through the evening. The lively music and dance captivates and humours the audience, many of whom stood to applaud and express their enthusiasm for a great evening’s entertainment. To 02-08-14.

30-07-14 

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