x Theatre's production of the Broadway classic "Annie Get Your Gun" is well-acted and entertaining. "Annie" is very loosely based on the life of the famous sharpshooter Annie Oakley and her husband and fellow marksman, Frank Butler. Focusing on their courtship and rivalry during the 1880s, the musical is a standard but witty take on the old battle-of-the-sexes story as Annie and Frank are forced to learn to compromise if they want to be together.
The strength of this production of "Annie Get Your Gun" is in its cast. Myka Plunkett is a firecracker as Annie. Spunky, beautiful, and brash, she is a delight in every scene. Jonathan Phillips' Frank is a good foil for Plunkett, finding a good balance between pigheaded and charming. There is real chemistry between the two of them as they dance through their lines, comedic and dramatic, never missing a beat. Both of them could easily carry larger productions in the future.
"Annie" also features some strong supporting performances. Hillary Finch makes a real splash as Dolly Tate, Frank's buxom and hot-tempered assistant, supplanted by Annie. Tim Turner puts on the right amount of airs for Buffalo Bill, while Richard Evans does double duty as hotel manager Foster Wilson and rival showman Pawnee Bill. While good in both roles, he shines more as the former. Mike Parker takes the thankless role of Chief Sitting Bull, and imbues him with an affable charm and warmth that makes him the unexpected heart of the show. A special mention goes to Leah Coleman as Mrs. Potter-Porter for a laugh that sent shivers down my spine!
FILLING THE SPACE
The actors succeed in filling the space with vibrant, over-the-top characters, establishing the scenes in spite of bland and inadequate sets and uninspired lighting design. The costumes range from excellent to passable, with Annie, Frank and Dolly's wardrobes all standing out. The choreography is flat and fails to take into account the in-the-round space, leaving half the audience with a great view of Annie and Frank's backsides (nice as they may be) for most of the show.
The musical numbers are minimal, just voice and piano, but are excellently performed overall, with highlights that include "Doin' What Comes Naturally," "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun" and "Anything You Can Do."
Like so many older musicals, "Annie Get Your Gun" could easily be seen as offensive when looked at with modern sensibilities. Obviously written for a fairly ethnically homogenous audience (see: white), the world of "Annie" is populated with caricatures and stereotypes more than real people. The portrayal of American Indians and their culture alone is pretty horrendous, reaching a climax in the number "I'm an Indian, Too" in which Annie is adopted into the Sioux tribe. However, it's important to keep in mind that "Annie" is not attempting historical or cultural commentary. It's just looking to entertain, and entertain it does.
Memorable songs, quick-witted and often deftly executed dialogue, and dynamic performances make "Annie Get Your Gun" worth the price of admission.