Revised by Peter Stone
Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Directed by Nina Stevenson
Queanbeyan Players, Q Theatre, Queanbeyan
November 1 to 16, 2013
Review by Len Power 2 November 2013
‘It’s old-fashioned’, wailed some critics when ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ first opened on Broadway in 1946. ‘Yes’, replied the composer of the music and lyrics, Irving Berlin, ‘nothing but good, old-fashioned hits’. Nearly 70 years later, this musical still has the power to delight an audience with one great song after another. Even if you don't know musicals, you'll know most of the songs in this show.
Nina Stevenson’s bright and busy new production uses the 1999 revised book of the show which tones down insensitivities in the original script towards native Americans. A notable song loss is ‘I’m An Indian, Too’. It’s been reshaped into a show within a show, an awkward device that interrupts the flow of the story unnecessarily.
The large and enthusiastic cast start the show with a rousing, ‘There’s No Business like Show Business’. In the star role of Annie Oakley, Anita Davenport is appealing, funny, fiery and down to earth. She displays an excellent sense of timing with the comedy and sings the big numbers and the ballads very well. She looks like she’s having the time of her life onstage and the audience is with her every step of the way.
Richard Block was a good choice physically as Annie’s love interest, Frank Butler, but he struggled with the dramatic aspects of the role and gave an uneven performance vocally. He was not helped by the hideous zebra-patterned shirt and shiny pants he was given to wear for much of the show. Pat Gallagher gives a grand, charismatic performance as Buffalo Bill Cody and Gerard Fitzsimmons almost steals the show as a very funny and wise Chief Sitting Bull. Fiona Hale is a sunny delight as the scheming Dolly Tate and Peter Hoban gives great warmth to the role of Charlie Davenport.
The secondary love interest plot seems to get a bit lost in this show, but both Sophie Hopkins as Winnie Tate and Greg Sollis as Tommy Keeler, make the most of their big moments, especially in the bright number, ‘Who Do You Love, I Hope’.
The simple settings from a concept by Nina Stevenson, Kathryn Jones and Michael Booth, work well. The costumes by Christine Pawlicki are generally fine. The choreography by Kathryn Jones needed more Western flavour overall and the tap dance was out of place for the period and locale of the show.
This is an entertaining production of a now classic musical that must have an actor with star quality in the leading role. They’ve got it with Anita Davenport!