When he wrote Annie Get Your Gun, Irving Berlin was at the top of his game. The Second World War was over, Broadway and London’s West End was badly in need of something bright and optimistic and this was the show that scored on all points with Ethel Merman’s Annie Oakley drawing raves.
Since that time the show has been seen as the birth of a new kind of musical theatre and, along with Oklahoma!, is viewed as a classic with a musical score which has never lost its popularity.
Ian Talbot directs a strong and talented cast with all the zip and clarity the show demands (but doesn’t always get) and we must thank Lizzi Gee immediately for choreography that is fast, cohesive and a pleasure to watch. A case in point is the love interest namely Tommy Keeler (Yiftach Mizrahi) and Winnie Tate (Lorna Want).
These two dancers ooze professionalism and when Mr Mizrahi adds to all this a superb high tenor singing voice, the roof of the theatre lifts off and you think this is what Irving Berlin must have visualised when Annie was being created originally. But each one of the dance numbers is a joy, so it becomes impossible to choose between them, so you just sit back and smile. Although I stopped smiling when I found there were cuts.
The great opening number:: Who’s Got The Stuff That Makes The Wild West Wild has been amputated along with the equally great Indian number where Annie Oakley becomes a Sioux. Along with this false economy we have to endure a permanent set dressed with little save a couple of very shabby boxes and with an onstage band taking up far too much room. Charlie Davenport shouts out words like “Scene Two, the Wilson Hotel”, therefore your imagination has to work overtime in terms of location.
Jason Donovan’s Frank Butler is everything a conceited sharpshooter ought to be, Mr Donovan is charming, personable and probably sells the show. His singing is another matter. This is not the Donovan I reviewed some years ago at Symphony Hall in a one-man concert. His vocal range seemed depleted and his reliance on a intense miking was obvious. The acting laurels go to Emma Williams as Annie. She moving easily from naive hillbilly to the toast of Europe and was consistently marvellous with a great voice to match. In fact rarely has a young star shone so brightly, and I wish her well.
Runs until Saturday.