Annie Get Your Gun is one of those musicals that few people have probably heard of, even though they will almost certainly be able to recognise some of the songs. A new production is currently touring the UK, and I went to see it at the New Wimbledon Theatre.
With music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and a book by Dorothy and Herbert Fields, the original production premiered on Broadway in 1946, followed by a film version in 1950. It is a fictionalised version of the life of Annie Oakley, star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, and tells the story of her rise to fame and her love for fellow sharpshooter Frank Butler.
As Annie, Emma Williams is brilliant: hugely likeable with a gauche charm, she has a fantastic singing voice and handles the physical aspects of the role with aplomb. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for her co-star Jason Donovan (Frank Butler). I thought that his voice wasn’t very good, and he lacked the necessary presence and charisma to overcome this. Norman Pace puts in a decent turn as Buffalo Bill, and Lorna Want and Yiftach Mizrahi are also strong in a sub-plot involving two young lovers.
The music is charming, with standouts such as “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)”, “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, and my favourite, “You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun”. It is performed with the backing of an on-stage orchestra. The set was clearly built on a budget, consisting of a circus tent with minimal props, and announced scene changes just in case the lack of set left the audience in any doubt as where we were meant to be. However, this didn’t really bother me – the quality of the performances matter much more to me than having a flashy set, and in the majority of cases the performances were top-notch.
It might not be perfect, but this production of Annie Get Your Gun is entertaining and amusing, and well worth spending time on.