Music &Lyrics: Irving Berlin
Original Book: Herbert Fields &Dorothy Fields
New Book &Additional Material: Peter Stone
Director: Ian Talbot
Reviewer: Malcolm Wallace
A true golden oldie, Annie Get Your Gun featuring a brilliant score by Irving Berlin first burst onto the stage in 1946, nearly seventy years ago. It proved to be a great hit both on Broadway and in London and has been revived regularly on both sides of the Atlantic ever since, although the last attempt at a UK Tour in 2005 struggled to find an audience and closed early. This new production deserves no such fate. While it’s never going to set the world alight it is a solid and enjoyable staging of a good old fashioned show.
Telling the story of Annie Oakley, a sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and her tumultuous romance with fellow sharpshooter Frank Butler, the production is based on the 1999 revised Broadway version that omitted several original songs and removed some of the more insensitive racial elements and reset the piece as a show within a show played out in a big top tent. That formula is stuck to in this production but doesn’t really add anything other than functioning as a cost cutting device as a much smaller set is required.
That said, designer Paul Farnsworth has given this show a super looking circus tent that fills the stage with colour, providing the on stage band with plenty of space and introducing a few projections at the rear. Lighting is designed by Jason Taylor and compliments the set very well indeed. The sound balance as designed by Gregory Clarke is spot on although on press night one or two microphone cues were missed.
Top billing for this production goes to Jason Donovan as Frank Butler but the star of the show is undoubtedly Emma Williams in the title rôle. Whereas Donovan appears miscast and struggles in both the acting and vocal departments, Williams shines from start to finish treating the audience to a performance of depth and class displaying top notch vocals and great comic timing. The disparity between the two leads becomes painfully evident during the show’s iconic song Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better, a duet between Butler and Annie where one tries to outdo the other. In this case it was evident right from the start who was going to come out on top!
In the smaller rôles Ed Currie is amusingly dry as Chief Sitting Bull while Yiftach Mizrahi and Lorna Want win the affection of the audience with their love story subplot and act duet What Do You Love, I Hope? The remainder of the ensemble clearly work very hard and, particularly in act 2, make the most of Lizzi Gee’s solid choreography.
Annie Get Your Gun is a quite dated and elderly but is a show aging with grace and this production does that grace justice. Donovan aside, it’s well performed, well directed by Ian Talbot and jolly good entertainment.
Photo: Alistair Muir | Runs until Saturday 24th May