By Marlene S. Gaylinn

“Annie Get Your Gun” at Goodspeed in East Haddam, is a bright, bouncy musical -- an appropriate, summer treat for the entire family.  This updated version of a 1946 Broadway hit that starred the powerful-voiced Ethel Merman has almost every diversion imaginable.   There are magical tricks, sharp-shooting “feats,” and an abundance of singing/dancing cowgirls and cowboys -- even a few Indians.  The only things it doesn’t have are live horses and real dung – but you can always your imagination if you wish.

Under the intelligent direction of Rob Ruggiero, there are modern references that adults can chuckle at plus several cute kids that add to family interest.  A sub-plot involving a mixed race, love affair, was inserted, and thankfully some of the American Indian stereotyping is toned down—for example, the original number, “I’m An Indian, too,” was wisely eliminated.

 Irving Berlin’s songs never seem to go out of style and in this musical each one is a gem.  You will surely recognize:  “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,”  “Doin' What Comes Natur’lly,” “They Say It’s Wonderful” etc.

The story is a glamorized version of real people.  There actually was an Annie Oakley.  She was a back woods girl who achieved international fame as a woman sharp shooter in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.  She met Frank Butler, a co-performer in the company and they were married.  The rest of the story as told onstage, is composed of competitions, thrills and frills and the ups and downs of show business.

Petite and perky Jenn Gambatese plays “Annie.”  It’s hard to believe how such a little girl, who is a wife and mother in real life, has the energy to belt out her songs with such bright animation.  Kevin Earley is the handsome “Frank Butler,” who also has a charming voice and great stage presence.   The dance ensemble is lively and colorful and the young lovers, Andrew Cao and Chelsea Stock who are excellent dance partners, have several, ballet sequences that were tenderly choreographed by Noah Racey.

“Annie Get Your Gun” has been extended to July 3.  Call 860-873-8668 for ticket reservations.

This article appears in “On Connecticut Theatre.”


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