‘Annie Get Your Gun’
WHERE: The Mac-Haydn Theatre, Route 203, Chatham
WHEN: Through June 6
HOW MUCH: $20-$12
MORE INFO: 392-9292 or www.machaydntheatre.org
The summer theater season is getting off to an exuberant start with Mac-Haydn Theatre’s production of Irving Berlin’s “Annie Get Your Gun.” Featuring a young (a very young) cast, it is a treasure of a show.
The story is a fictional account of the life of Annie Oakley, a scruffy country girl who became an internationally famous, award-winning sharpshooter. It is “Cinderella” in cowboy boots and buckskin with lots of fringe and feathers. The costumes are gorgeously conceived by the gifted Jimm Halliday.
As mentioned, some in the cast are far too young to be playing the roles they play. Even gray wigs and fake moustaches and beards cannot hide their youth, but don’t let that get in the way of your fun. I didn’t. And Thursday’s opening-day audience (mostly seniors — busloads of them) didn’t either. In fact, what struck me about the show was the beautifully touching convergence of two very different generations. Facebook and iPads met WWII, and they loved each other. It brings to mind the recent phenomenon of Betty White hosting “SNL.” I had to wonder if, in choosing this decades-old musical, MHT’s board of directors had just this sweet meeting in mind.
Director Rob Richardson uses the small theater-in-the-round stage well. His actors never seem crowded or awkward on the set.
Karla Shook, as Annie, follows the character’s arc from hick to high-powered celebrity with precision. She makes the role interesting because, even with her international fame, Annie never loses her country-girl innocence. This is aided, of course, by the fact that her little brother and sisters tag along everywhere she travels. These characters are played adorably by George Franklin (Little Jake), Emma Frances Gregg (Nellie), Charlotte Tucksmith (Jessie) and Sadie Kratt (Minnie).
Jason Whitfield plays Annie’s lifelong love Frank Butler. He’s a “bad, bad man” as he announces in his first number, but his magnetism and his memorable voice captivated both Annie and his Thursday afternoon audience.
It is difficult to single out special performances in this uniformly remarkable cast, but I must say that Aaron Komo, as the fabled chieftain Sitting Bull, brings both authority and humanity to his role. Kevin Kelly as Col. William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) and Brett Figel, playing Maj. Gordon Little (Pawnee Bill) — Cody’s rival entrepreneur, play their roles with the right amount of bluster and broad humor.
Choreography by Mike Kirsch is absolutely eye-popping. And, again, his dancers never seem cramped on MHT’s small stage. Set designer Kevin Gleason manages to take the show everywhere it needs to go—a Pullman parlor, a big tent arena, a cattle boat, etc.— with small unobtrusive touches. And set changes, led by stage manager Joshua Strickle, are executed seamlessly.
With familiar, beautifully sung tunes, like “The Girl That I Marry,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” and “You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun” this show is must-see.