“ANNIE GET YOUR GUN” A SHARPSHOOTING SUCCESS AT GOODSPEED


        BONNIE GOLDBERG

When a scruffy, feisty tomboy named Annie Oakley finds herself in a shooting match with the dashing womanizer Frank Butler, love hits the bull’s eye on her romance target.  The fact that Frank has a detailed list of qualifications for “The Girl That I Marry” and Annie fits none of these, makes her challenge to land him all the sweeter.

Run, don’t walk, to the superlative production of this Irving Berlin musical, with book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields, “Annie Get Your Gun”  extended until Saturday, July 3 at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam.

Jean Gambatese is firecracker cute and just plain adorable as Annie Oakley in this fictionalized version of her meeting and marriage to Frank Butler, a darling Kevin Earley, a crack shooter with the traveling “Buffalo Bill (David McDonald) Wild West Show.  When they meet in Cincinnati, Ohio, the local hotel owner Foster Wilson (Bill Nabel) sponsors Annie to go against the reigning champ Frank and Annie quickly bests him at his game, winning herself a spot in the show.  This pleases the show’s manager  Charlie Davenport (James Beaman) and delights Annie’s siblings (Joy Rachel DelValle, Marissa Smoker and Griffin Birney ) and irks Frank’s assistant Dolly (Rebecca Watson).

As they travel, Annie perfects a daredevil act to surprise Frank and help the show compete against arch rival, the Pawnee Bill Far East Show, starring Chief Sitting Bull (Michael Nichols).  When Annie’s trick is a huge success, Frank storms off in anger and joins the competition.  How Annie saves the day and wins back her man is a pure pleasure to witness.

Each song, from the grand opening number “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” to  Annie’s explanation that she’s just “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly,” to her realization that “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,” to Frank’s confession about love, “They Say It’s Wonderful,” to their fierce competitive spirit of “Anything You Can Do,” is more terrific than the one before.  Rob Ruggiero directs this powder keg of entertainment as it explodes with excitement.

For tickets ($27.50-71) call Goodspeed Musicals, 6 Main Street, East Haddam (exit 7, off route 9) at 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org.  Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (with select 2 p.m. shows), Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (with select 6:30 p.m. shows).

Watch Annie Oakley emerge from the backwoods with her rifle loaded as she becomes the darling of European royalty and, in the process, becomes everything the dazzling Frank Butler could ever desire.

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