Annie Get Your Gun

Music and Lyrics by Irving BerlinAnnie-page111

Book by Herbert & Dorthy Fields

Stage director & choreographer Rudy Hogenmiller

Conductor Roger L. Bingaman

Produced by Light Opera Works

At Cahn Auditorium, Evanston

Toe-tapping Berlin score sounds terrific with full orchestra

It is so refreshing to experience classical Broadway musicals mounted like the originals. With all the original Robert Russell Bennett’s orchestrations played by a 30 person orchestra, Annie Get Your Gun, now a holiday treat at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston produced by Light Opera Works, is a marvelous musical containing one of Broadways’ most memorable scores.  When Jerome Kern dropped out due to illness in 1946, producers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein asked Irving Berlin to compose the tunes for Annie Get Your Gun. He was reluctant since book by the Fields’ was a “situation musical”–meaning that the songs would come of and further the storyline. That was a new method made famous by  the 1943 hit Oklahoma. Berlin was coaxed to try the writing and the result was one of the most acclaimed scores every penned for the stage!

Light Opera Works

Light Opera Works

Annie Get Your Gun was intended to be a star vehicle for Ethel Merman (1908-84) and that original production with her played for 1,147 performances. It has been remounted many time including the Ravina production with Patti LuPone in 2010. The musical was a fictionalized version of female sharpshooter Annie Oakley who stared in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in the late 19th Century.

Light Opera Works

In the Light opera Works production, Colette Todd plays and sings Annie Oakley with a nice combination of down-home charm and feminist determination. Todd’s powerful vocals and her acting chops make Annie Oakley a most empathetic character. We love her and cheer for her as she tangles with boisterous Frank Butler (James Rank in rich voice), the reigning Wild West sharpshooter. This is a comic, show business fable with a light-weight book that is propelled by the fabulous staging and choreography by Rudy Hogenmiller as well as the deft singing of the terrific Berlin songbook.

Such tunes as “Doin’ what Comes Natur’lly,” and “You Can’t Get  a Man With a Gun” are memorable. The Broadway anthem “There’s No Business Like Show Business” emerged as one of the most famous show tunes ever! Numbers like “They Say it’s Wonderful’ and “I Get the Sun in the Morning,” have become standards that have been recorded by many singers. The famous duets: “An Old Fashion Wedding’ and “Anything You Can do,” nicely landed by James Rank and Colette Todd, add fine moments to this pleasingly light comic musical.

Light Opera Works

In addition to all the humor and terrific songs, Annie Get Your Gun contains some wildly imaginative American Indian-inspired music and dances  smartly created by choreographer Rudy Hogenmiller. The “Tribal Dance” was breathtaking. The sophisticated staging and dance in the “I Got the Sun in the Morning’ number was smoothly performed a 40’s style dance to the toe-tapping Berlin song (my personal favorite tune form the show).

The Light Opera Works production has the lush, melodic Berlin score; nicely sung numbers; and fine comic moments with impressive dances that all equal a fine family-friendly Broadway musical. This production is truly as “must see” event. It is  a rare treat to experience a full orchestra playing the complete score of a classical Broadway musical. This show proves that ‘there is no business Like show business!

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson, Evanston, IL, call 847-920-5360. www.musictheaterworks.com, tickets $32- $92, Thursday, Dec. 26 at 2pm, Friday, Dec 27 at 8 pm, Saturday, Dec 28 at 2 & 8pm, Sunday, Dec 29 at 2 pm, Tuesday, DEc 31, at 8pm, running time is 2 hours 45 minutes with intermission.