Archive for Sunday, June 8, 2008

Theater review: Go get a seat for ‘Annie Get Your Gun’

June 8, 2008


If you want to have a pleasant evening, go see the Lawrence Community Theatre's fine production of "Annie Get Your Gun," Irving Berlin's immortal musical. You'll enjoy many of the best tunes in the Great American Songbook, such as "Anything You Can Do," "I Got the Sun in the Morning and the Moon at Night," "The Girl That I Marry," and the biggest show-biz song of them all, "There's No Business Like Show Business."

And take the kids along. They'll see that really good theater production beats the movies any day.

This show follows the 1999 Peter Stone adaptation of "Annie," which won a Tony for best revival of the season and another Tony for Bernadette Peters, who played Annie Oakley. It is this version that gives us the show-within-a-show format. (We are seeing a play, and the play is about what goes on within Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.) This version also gives us the delightful subplot involving the two young lovers, Tommy Keeler and Winnie Tate.

Frank Butler, the world's best sharpshooter, is the star of the Wild West Show. But Annie shows up one day in Cincinnati and beats him in a shooting competition. The manager of the show, Charlie Davenport, with Frank's support, convinces her to join the troupe.

It's not long before Annie becomes the central attraction. This hurts Frank's pride and he joins the rival Pawnee Bill show. To complicate matters, Annie and Frank have fallen in love.

How can Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show survive without Frank? How can the two lovers be brought back together? This is the complication that the second act of the musical must resolve.

The cast in this production is uniformly good, and much credit must go to the director, Charles Goolsby, for bringing out the best in the actors, and the support given him by the assistant director, Alicia Ellingson. The music director, Judy Heller, and the choreographer, Barbara Wasson, do a fabulous job with the song and dance routines. Wasson makes amazing use of the small space of the LCT playing area.

Annie Oakley is played by Maggie Gremminger, who brings both enthusiasm and a remarkable singing talent to the role. The poor acoustics in LCT, however, will require that she sing with more volume in the lower registers. Jim Tuchscherer, a veteran actor and singer, gives a sensitive, standout performance as Frank Butler. And Bob Newton, as Charlie Davenport, brings humor and great stage presence to the role. Longtime LCT actor and director Charles Whitman makes a humorous, hearty Buffalo Bill.

The strong supporting cast helps to make this "Annie" quite memorable. Genee Figuieras does a delicious job in the role of the semi-hysterical Dolly Tate, and Kendra Verhage brilliantly plays Winnie Tate, her younger sister, who is in love with Tommy Keeler (Quinn Wasson). Verhage and Wasson, two talented, high-energy young actors, nearly steal the show at times. Dean Bevan makes a perfect, straight-faced Chief Sitting Bull. John Mosher, as Pawnee Bill, and Doug Wasson as Foster Wilson, also do good work.

Performances for the Lawrence Community Theatre production of "Annie Get Your Gun" continue through June 22.

Jerry Masinton is a freelance writer living in Lawrence.


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