Annie Get Your Gun is Theatre Under The Stars second show in its 62nd season, playing opposite nights to TUTS other production Jesus Christ Superstar, and thanks to its two stars, Meghan Anderssen as Annie Oakley and Warren Kimmel as Frank Butler, this show definitely hits its mark.
Written in 1946, there is no doubt that Annie Get Your Gun is from a different era, and although the book has been updated to remove and tone down some of the more culturally sensitive scenes with Native Americans, it is still not without its questionable moments. There still remains the issue of the relationship between men and women but fortunately, these uncomfortable moments are fleeting and the audience can get on with enjoying a show that, although dated, is fun and full of great performances.
Set in Buffalo Bill Cody’s traveling show we cross the American continent, to Europe and back again as love builds between Annie and Frank despite the very different worlds they originally came from – Frank from his position of power as “the world’s best sharpshooter” and Annie as the backwoods hick who challenges that power. At one point the couple part ways only to be reunited in the evening’s best number: Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better. And no one can do it better than Anderssen and Kimmel here.
As Annie Oakley, Meghan Anderssen is the definite highlight of the night. This woman can sing and brings both a strength and sweetness to her characterization of Annie Oakley. It can’t be easy playing a role that its very heart puts down a women’s ability to participate in a man’s world (at least in 1946) but Anderssen manages this with great ease. Kimmel as Frank Butler matches Anderssen beautifully and indeed it is when the two of them are on stage together that the show really shines.
Stephen Aberle serves us up a wonderful Buffalo Bill and Doug Pinkerton as Chief Sitting Bull brings what could easily have been a caricature to life with wit and an understated performance. I did find (as did my seat mates) Kimberly Page’s Dolly to be a bit shrill and would have much preferred her to be more conniving than hysterical. And of course who can’t help but be enchanted with Annie’s three little sisters played by Sophie Leroux, Natalia McLaughlin and Roan Shankaruk.
But in addition to the great performances by the two leads, this is also a show about the ensemble cast. We are treated to some great production numbers here and Director Shel Piercy and Choreographer Shelley Stewart Hunt get the most of the larger cast. Plus Musical Director, Wendy Bross Stuart, has obviously done a great job with the singers. Cast members on a unicycle, barrel rolling and acrobatics are all part of the “big top” experience created here to the delight of the audience. Kudos to this great ensemble!
The cast of Theatre Under the Stars production of Annie Get Your Gun. Photo: Tim Matheson
Set Designer Robert Gardiner does a great job of transporting us from location to location across this sprawling landscape whether it is under the big top or traveling across the country on a train although I was a bit disappointed that the big top was not more colourful although the costumes made up for that for the most part.
Sound problems still seem to persist as they did with Jesus Christ Superstar a few nights prior and this is a real shame. The loud and brassy There’s No Business Like Show Business which opens the show was overpowered by the orchestra and Kimmel’s voice was simply lost.
After the disappointing Jesus Christ Superstar it is great to see TUTS’ second show of the season is big, bold and a great deal of fun.