ĎAnnie Get Your Guní
By Roz Friedman
The production of Annie Get Your Gun at the Goodspeed Opera House is delightful. The cast, directed expertly by Rob Ruggiero, is just fine. Jenn Gambatese as the real-life, gun-toting Annie Oakley is more than a triple threat. She can sing, dance and act, and captures the feistiness of this petite lady who grew up in the backwoods, impoverished and uneducated, and became a world figure. Kevin Earley, although he looks too young for the role, has a big voice and is as tall and as handsome as he has to be to portray Frank Butler; he’s the best shot in town, star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and, of course, popular with the ladies. After competing with and besting him in a shooting competition, Annie falls in love with him, hook, rifle and bullet. The themes radiate the optimism that was taking place in this country at the turn of the Century and are reflected in Noah Racey’s ebullient Choreography. Michael Schweikhardt’s sets lit by John Lassiter and Alejo Vietti’s Costumes are especially effective. It’sthe same Tech team responsible for last season’s beautiful Camelot.
But after all is said and done, Irving Berlin deserves all the credit. He was a genius who wrote the music and words to over a thousand songs, one more tuneful than the other. In 1946, after Jerome Kern died suddenly, with the request of Rodgers and Hammerstein who were the producers, he took over the job of writing the music and words to Annie Get Your Gun. With a Book by the brother and sister team of Herbert and Dorothy Fields, who created this for Ethel Merman, and revised by Peter Stone, who made it more politically correct, it has been a hit in every incarnation. Stone added a secondary love story between Winnie, played sweetly here by Chelsea Morgan Stock, and Tommy, half Indian, half Irish, played by Andrew Cao, who is a strong dancer with a weak voice. Stone also eliminated the number, “I’m an Indian, too.”
There are at least 12 gorgeous songs filled with humor and love that have stood the test of time. The show opens with the rousing, “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” which almost didn’t make the show. “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly,” The Girl that I Marry, “You Can’t Get A Man With a Gun,” “They Say (that falling in love) It’s Wonderful,” “My Defenses are Down,” “I Got Lost in His Arms,” “I Got the Sun in the Morning,” “An Old Fashioned Wedding,” “The Girl That I Marry,” and “Anything You Can Do (I can do better), ”all tell the love story.
And what a love story it was. Annie was ten years younger than Frank. They were married for over 30 years. Butler was so crushed by Annie’s death at the age of 66 in 1926, he died 18 days later. In today’s world, that probably would be the end of the show. Thankfully this one ends on a happy note, sending the audience out into the world in an uplifted mood.
Annie Get you Gun will play in an extended run at Goodspeed through July 3.