Review: Annie Get Your Gun (Light Opera Works)

| December 22, 2013
Colette Todd stars as Annie Oakley in Light Opera Works' "Annie Get Your Gun" by Irving Berlin, directed by Rudy Hogenmiller.        
      
Annie Get Your Gun

Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields
Directed by Rudy Hogenmiller
at Cahn Auditorium, Evanston (map)
thru Dec 31  |  tickets: $32-$94   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets  
         
                   Read review 


  
  

So joyous it could cure the flu!

     

Jim Heatherly, Colette Todd, John B. Boss and James Rank star in Light Opera Works' "Annie Get Your Gun" by Irving Berlin, directed by Rudy Hogenmiller. (photo credit: Chris Ocken)

    
Light Opera Works presents
    
Annie Get Your Gun

Review by Lawrence Bommer

A first impression that crystallizes into a solid recommendation, Rudy Hogenmiller’s holiday staging of Irving Berlin’s treasured musical is a doozie. Cahn Auditorium might as well be a poster-strewn, festively lit carnival tent, so suggests the huge billboard blow-up for “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and his Congress of Rough Riders” that greets your from the start. This devotedly faithful revival of Berlin’s greatest hit–a 1946 musical as American as what’s best in us–transforms the rambunctious courtship between tempestuous sharpshooters Frank Butler and Annie Oakley into a show within a circus. This hillbilly heroine from Dark County, Ohio and this womanizing sure-shot headliner seem an odd match—but they make beautiful duets together, not to mention box office bonanzas. That harmony, of course, can’t happen until friction between the temperamental artistes (“Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better”) forces Frank to abandon one Bill for another, temporarily seeking marquee glory with Pawnee Bill’s competing Wild West show and returning to his flamboyant assistant Dolly Tate (effervescent Jenny Lamb).

Rick Rapp and Colette Todd star as Sitting Bull and Annie Oakley in Light Opera Works' "Annie Get Your Gun" by Irving Berlin, directed by Rudy Hogenmiller. (photo credit: Chris Ocken)The sheer conviction of everything on stage overcomes the occasional lapses of political correctness (like Rick Rapp’s deadpan Chief Sitting Bull, a cigar-store Indian come to life, and Annie’s elaborate induction into the Sioux tribe) and one huge anachronism (what is a motorcycle, upon which Annie does some trick shooting, doing in the early 1890s?). Of course, there are also some wryly proto- feminist jokes: Despite being illiterate and uneducated, Colette Todd’s rambunctious Annie (reminiscent of Patrice Munsel in her prime) quickly learns how to exploit the double standard: She knows she “can’t get a man with a gun” but that’s her claim to fame. Will she tame her talent in order to win the love of Frank Butler (James Rank), knowing how fragile the male ego really is? It’s a “scrappily ever after” fairy tale.

Anyway, with “There’s No Business Like Show Business” as your irresistible credo/anthem, you’re in footlight heaven: The song defines Broadway into notes. Equally entrancing are the gorgeous melodies and witty lyrics that embellish “An Old-Fashioned Wedding,” “The Girl That I Marry,” “Doin’ What Comes Naturally” (too slow in tempo here), and “I Got Lost in His Arms.” Rank and Todd croon these classics as freshly as if they just got them in rehearsal: Happily, there’s nothing flashy about Todd’s dogged ardor for James Ranks’ rich baritone of a Frank (insufferable in the sharpshooter’s non-negotiable merit.) Our very game Annie’s infatuation with sudden fame and the man who makes it matter is as solid as the splendid duet “They Say That Falling in Love Is Wonderful.”

John Cardone and ensemble in Light Opera Works' "Annie Get Your Gun" by Irving Berlin, directed by Rudy Hogenmiller. (photo credit: Chris Ocken)
James Rank and Colette Todd star in Light Opera Works' "Annie Get Your Gun" by Irving Berlin, directed by Rudy Hogenmiller. (photo credit: Chris Ocken) Colette Todd in Light Opera Works' "Annie Get Your Gun" by Irving Berlin, directed by Rudy Hogenmiller. (photo credit: Chris Ocken)

Cleverly mounted, fast-paced, and plucky as its success story, Light Opera Works’ Annie Get Your Gun is a happy contest between spectacle and sentiment. Set designer Nick Mozak’s drop curtains instantly and convincingly change the locales from the Wilson House hotel in Cincinnati to a Pullman parlor on the Overland Steam Train to the Minneapolis’ fair grounds to a cattle boat to the Hotel Brevoort’s Ballroom to a ferry and finally to Governor’s Island, where Annie learns to lose a battle in order to win a war. (She gives a new meaning to “gun control.”) Whirlwind is too weak a word.

Brenda Winstead’s costumes nail the period and the people. Andrew H. Meyers’ lighting plays its own tricks of the trade. Roger Bingaman’s 28-piece orchestra can do no wrong as they give Berlin’s glorious score all we could ask for. Finally, Hogenmiller’s downhome (if sometimes casual) choreography delivers wildly athletic (as in gymnastic) hoedowns, culminating in an “I Got the Sun in the Morning and the Moon at Night” so joyous it could cure the flu.

Though Annie and Frank are self-promoting, leather-lunged, sawdust legends, beneath the bravura this American Beatrice and Benedick just need an excuse to drop their rifles and exchange rings. As benevolent, goateed Buffalo Bill, John B. Boss helps them to do what comes naturally–but the real match-maker remains Irving Berlin’s perfect songs.

  
Rating: ★★★½
  
   

Annie Get Your Gun continues through December 31st at Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson (map)..  Tickets are $32-$94, and are available by phone (847-920-5360) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at Light-Opera-Works.org(Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes, includes an intermission)

James Frank in Light Opera Works' "Annie Get Your Gun" by Irving Berlin, directed by Rudy Hogenmiller. (photo credit: Chris Ocken)

Photos by Chris Ocken 


     

artists

cast

Colette Todd (Annie Oakley), James Rank (Frank Butler), Jim Heatherly (Charlie Davenport), Jenny Lamb (Dolly Tate), Rick Rapp (Chief Sitting Bull), John B. Boss (Buffalo Bill Cody), Chuck Sisson (Pawnee Bill), Patrick Byrnes, Ariana Cappuccitti, John Cardone, Nathan Carroll, Melissa Crabtree, Erica Evans, LaRon Grant, Audrey Heiserman, Sean Loftus, Erin Long, Daniel Matsuyama, Ryan McBride, Lauren Omelson, Jaymes Osborne, Caroline Phillips, Janell Rinne, Patrick Rooney, Russell Rowe, Willow Schneider, Kara Schoenhofer, Lauren Serra, Peyton Shaffer, Sarah Simmons, Aaron Stone, Tyler Thompson, Cameron Turner, David Whitlock, Hannah Whitlock

behind the scenes

Rudy Hogenmiller (director, choreographer, artistic director), Roger L. Bingaman (conductor, chorus master, music director), Nick Mozak (scenic design), Palmer Jankens (sound design), Brenda Winstead (costume design), Sienna Macedon-Kusek (hair and make-up), Andrew H. Meyers (lighting design), Tom Campbell (stage manager), Katie Beeks (production manager), Bridget McDonough (general manager), Matt Conlon (house manager), Sienna Macedon-Kusek (hair and make-up design), Cassy Schillo (props design), Bob Douglas (floral design), Daniel Spagnuolo (asst. director), Cameron Turner (dance captain), Diana J. Brodick (orchestra contractor), Kate Collins (asst. stage manager), Linda Madonia (asst. music director, asst. chorus master), Adam Veness (tech director), Will Dean (master electrician, lighting board operator), Jess Goings, Kristof Janezic (spotlight operators), Daniel Carlyon (sound board operator), Alex Palma (asst. sound design), Alicia Anne Lees (asst. costumes), Lynn Sparber (asst. hair and make-up), David Servillo (running crew), Kaylee Oost (young performers supervisor), Robert Russell Bennett (orchestrations), Richard De Benedictis (dance arrangements), Jennifer Schuman, Rich Foreman, Chris Ocken (photos)

James Rank and Colette Todd star as Frank Butler and Annie Oakley in Light Opera Works' "Annie Get Your Gun" by Irving Berlin, directed by Rudy Hogenmiller. (photo credit: Chris Ocken)

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Category: 2013 Reviews, Cahn Auditorium, Lawrence Bommer, Light Opera Works, Musical

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