Annie Get Your Gun

Music & Lyrics by Irving Berlinannie get your gun at ravinia

Book by Herbert & Dorthy Fields

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Music Direction by Paul Gemignani

Directed by Lonny Price

Choreographed by Josh Rhodes

In a stylized concert staging a Ravinia’s Pavilion

Casting choice hurt Annie Get Your Gun

Ravinia Festival’s three performance (through Sunday, August 15) Annie Get Your Gun is a stylized concert stage event that nearly becomes a full fledged production sans sets.  With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on stage (conducted by  Paul Gemignani), Irving Berlin’s 1946 Broadway Musical, Annie Get Your Gun sounded magnificent.  Considered my many (including me) to be Berlin’s masterpiece, Annie Get Your Gun has one of the finest scores and smart lyrics ever penned for the stage! Featuring the Broadway anthem “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly” and “They Say It’s Wonderful,” Annie Get Your Gun is pure classical Broadway fun.

annie get your gun at ravinia

Conceived by Dorothy Fields as a stat-vehicle for Ethel Merman, Annie Get Your Gun demands a Broadway-belter and Patti LuPone , now a Ravinia perennial, fills that role with zest as Annie Oakley, the sharp-shooting hick from Ohio. When Buffalo Bill’s (George Hearn) Wild West show comes to Cincinnati, Annie meets Frank Butler (Patrick Cassidy) and instantly falls in love.  She joins the show after out-shooting Butler. The love chase is on. Filled with tunes like “The Girl That I Marry” and “You Can’t  Get A Man With A Gun,” Berlin’s ‘situation show’ is pure Broadway fluff that never takes itself too seriously.

Unfortunately,  once Brian Stokes Mitchell dropped out, his replacement, Patrick Cassidy (who played Frank Butler on Broadway) was miscast as his singing was shaky at best, his acting was unsure and he was not believable as the charismatic Butler. No sparks were evident between he and LuPone. That made the romantic element almost mute.  The duet numbers “They Say It’s Wonderful,” “Moonshine Lullaby” and “Anything You Can Do” were completely dominated by Patti LuPone.

annie get your gun at ravinia

The core of the show’s energy came form the strong supporting cast led by the Michael Weber’s exuberant Charlie Davenport, the Wild West show’s manager. Weber,  George Hearn (Buffalo Bill) and Michael Accardo (Wilson/Pawnee Bill) deftly landed the show’s tribute to show biz with their wonderful “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Weber almost stole the show. Joseph Anthony Foronda (Sitting Bull) and Suzanne Sole (Dolly Tate) did yeomen work also.

annie get your gun at ravinia

Too bad that director Lonny Price and choreographer Josh Rhodes didn’t mount more dancing. They smartly crafted the second act show-stopper “I Got The Sun In the Morning” which was nailed  by the underused ensemble of many of Chicago’s top players.

annie get your gun at ravinia

Still, I enjoyed this staged concert’s lush music and the players had their moments.  The show seemed a tad under rehearsed and a bite uneven yet there were enough thrilling moments and stirring music to make for an entertaining evening.  As a chestnut of the stage, Annie Get Your Gun deserves to experienced again and introduced to the next generation.

Recommended

Tom Williams

At Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, IL, www.ravinia.org, tickets $50 – $90, lawn $20, Saturday, August 14 and Sunday, August 15 at 7:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 25 minutes with intermission.