She’s “quick on the trigger, with targets not much bigger than a pin point, she’s number one; but, her score with a feller is lower than the cellar….” but she can get a man with her gun. Who? Annie Oakley, of course, in the Irving Berlin musical, “Annie Get Your Gun” now playing the MTH in Crown Center, in Kansas City, Missouri.
Get ready for heart strings to be yanked from the first bars of the opening number in Musical Theater Heritage’s newest production. A young whippersnapper, Little Jake, played by Delilah Pellow, stands alone, front and center, in the spotlight and sings the first verse of the signature song, “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and captures the hearts and attention of the entire audience.
That’s just the beginning of the rip-roaring updated rendition of “Annie Get Your Gun” with book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields, music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, and updated and revised by Peter Stone. The revised show rearranges the songs and does so to keep the show moving and weed out some slower parts. The idea works, but theater enthusiasts probably remember the previous versions better, both starred Ethel Merman in her most famous Broadway show.
For the MTH production, KC acting legend Jim Korinke gave a spirited Buffalo Bill turn, while Sam Wright and Shelby Floyd wore the lead characters of Frank Butler and Annie Oakley with flash and grit. The flashy Frank boasted and flirted his way through the Irving Berlin songs with a wry smile and his beguiling flirtations with women. Wright gave a solid vocal and acting performance as the sharp-shooter. As for Floyd, the Annie Oakley character fit well into her strike zone as she can belt a song with the best of them. She has the power and magnitude of a modern Ethel Merman and the ability.
Also of note, Daniel Boothe, Andrea Boswell-Burns, deserve merit for their performances as Charlie and Dolly. Both made their characters colorful and dynamic–which is hard to do in a show that was tailored around the female lead. Boothe and Boswell-Burns did about as much as can be done with those supporting characters. Also of merit were the ingenue lovers/dancers brought to life by Maggie Marx and Joseph Carr. They were charming in their small parts.
And, even with that talented cast, scenes are stolen by Annie’s younger brothers and sisters. Josephine Pellow, Emerson Pereira, and Delilah Pellow are charming, talented, and scene stealers. Delilah Pellow absolutely steals the show with her opening solo of “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
With a guaranteed crowd-pleasing show like “Annie Get Your Gun,” immensely talented singing actors, a score by Irving Berlin, the production guarantees strong ticket sales. But, when you add the musical skills of Jeremy Watson as the pianist/conductor, the show elevates from great to sublime. Watson and his band absolutely deliver the Berlin music with flash and panache.
The only weakness is that by speeding up the tempo on the score, some of the more endearing ballads are sacrificed for an up-tempo performance. Admittedly, when the songs begin, those familiar with the original recordings can not help but her Ms. Merman’s version. Slowing down a few of the songs would certainly not hurt the overall production at MTH. And, slowing down the tempo on a few ballads would only add one or two minutes to the show, and slowing would give the leads the opportunity to color the songs with their emotions as well. Still the show is wonderful.
As Irving Berlin wrote, “The say that falling in love is wonderful…” so is the entire MTH production of “Annie Get Your Gun.” This production will entertain grade schoolers to ultra-mature audiences. The show debuted on Broadway in the 1940s and lives on today in revivals throughout the country. This is not a production to miss.
Tickets, dates, times, and more information can be accesses through the MTH website. “Annie Get Your Gun” runs through April 24. The blockbuster production should not be missed.