Annie Get Your Gun
"Annie Get Your Gun," at SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre
by Eric D. Snider
Published on July 12, 2000
"Annie Get Your Gun" isn't performed much in Utah -- odd, considering it has the word "gun" right in the title -- so audiences should take advantage of the SCERA Shell's production of it while they can.
Based on the somewhat-true story of sharp-shooter Annie Oakley's rivalry/romance with Frank Butler, the 1944 Irving Berlin musical had a flashy Broadway revival last year, but still transfers well to a smaller theater with smaller resources.
Two things carry it: Berlin's fantastic songs ("There's No Business Like Show Business," "I Got the Sun in the Morning," "Anything You Can Do"), which have ingeniously rhymed lyrics the likes of which no one writes anymore these days; and star Jayne Luke as the title character. Luke, a legendary performer in these parts, is a spunky little spitfire, playing a role she's perfect for
The story has Buffalo Bill (Marc Haddock) taking his Wild West show around the country, with Edgar Allen Poe look-alike Frank Butler (Brad Graff) as the star attraction. In Cincinnati, they run into Annie Oakley (Luke), a local backwoods gal who turns out to be at least a good a shot as Frank is.
Annie is put into the show, and the novelty of a woman sharpshooter helps make the tour successful. Her romance with Frank begins to blossom, but their pride, stubbornness and jealousy of each other gets in the way.
For a show that's at least partly about the excitement of show business, this production has a curiously slow pace. One is tempted to merely call it "gentle" or "unhurried," except that there are many moments in which one distinctly gets the sense that the actors could all pick up the pace just a bit and keep things moving.
Aside from that, and some energetic-but-uninspired choreography (does EVERY song have to end with EVERY cast member's hands up in the air?), the show is a treat to watch, even if you've seen it before. Brad Graff has a deep, full voice that gives Frank a soft demeanor, and he and Jayne Luke play well off each other. Daren Gates is also quite good in a non-flashy role, that of show manager Charlie Davenport. Scott Young earns laughs and audience affection as Annie's illiterate little brother Jake, too. And Alberto Oquendo's portrayal of Sioux (or "Souix," as it's spelled on a sign onstage) Chief Sitting Bill is far more dignified and non-caricatured than the role has often gotten in the past.
Great songs, funny dialogue and solid performances make "Annie Get Your Gun" an almost-perfect summertime event.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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