ComedyFestive 16/17MusicalNorth East & YorkshireReview

Annie Get Your Gun – Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

Book: Dorothy and Herbert Fields revised by Peter Stone

Music &Lyrics: Irving Berlin

Director: Paul Foster

Choreographer: Alistair David.

Reviewer: Sheila Stratford

Annie Oakley is a superb shot with a rifle.  The petite, unsophisticated daughter of pioneers, Annie rises from shooting game out of necessity to falling in love with Frank Butler, champion sharp- shooter. She goes on to star in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show where she emerges in popularity to the equivalence of a current-day rock star.

The story of Annie Oakley was fictionalised by Dorothy Fields and her brother Herbert. Irving Berlin was invited by Fields and producers Rogers and Hammerstein to write the score and lyrics for the musical. The production opened on Broadway in 1946 and is a fun, joyous story of love, competitiveness and a man’s pride. This musical is full of delightful catchy, uplifting numbers.

The revised version by Peter Stone in 1999 moves away from the importance of male dominance and the exploitation of Native Americans, choosing to open the show with There’s No Business Like Show Business.  Frank Butler (Ben Lewis) swaggers onto the stage, his excellent voice resonating around the auditorium as the ensemble join in. The scene is set as Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show comes to town and Frank Butler considers it a joke when Annie Oakley challenges him in a shooting competition. The spot effects in the shooting competition are perfect.

Maggie Service plays an admirable role as Dolly Tate, the anti-heroine in the show, while Anna-Jane Casey is an ideal Annie Oakley. Her superb singing voice gives great clarity to the lyrics and she portrays the full vitality of the Western legend. She is a full match to the off stage 12 piece orchestra with her rendition of You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun. The feisty relationship between Annie and Frank is delightfully manifested in the number Anything You Can Do.

The use of silhouettes is effective, and props are used to a minimum to keep the stage free for the dance routines. Director Paul Foster makes full use of the Crucible’s three-sided stage, as it serves to enhance the impressive and dazzling ensemble dance routines choreographed by Alistair David. The stage convincingly converts into an ocean liner, and the conversion of the revolving stage into train carriages is ingenious.

Annie Get Your Gun is definitely a feel-good musical with an interesting tale; history has it that Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show even came to Sheffield in 1891 and again in 1903. This is a great production and one that should not be missed this festive season.

Runs until 21 January 2017 | Image: Johan Persson

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