FALL IN LOVE WITH BROADWAY ALL OVER AGAIN!

Theatre Review by Fergus McGillicuddy

NEW YORK - March 5, 1999


Annie Get Your Gun Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun first opened at the Imperial Theatre on May 16, 1946, and ran for 1,147 performances. It was the third longest running musical of the 1940s and the biggest Broadway hit of Ethel Merman's career.

History, as they say, is about to repeat itself.

The revival of Annie Get Your Gun which opened last night - starring the incomparable Bernadette Peters in what may very well become the biggest Broadway hit of her career - is classic Broadway musical theatre at its best; exciting, vibrant, tuneful, altogether a wonderful experience to be remembered and cherished for a lifetime.

Irving Berlin's music is simply the most enchanting and distinguished complete score he ever wrote. Here we have his musical gems with dazzling new orchestrations by Bruce Coughlin. Herbert and Dorothy Fields' original book was pretty darn good to begin with. Peter Stone has dusted off the cobwebs of 50 years and provided a clear, revised book, chock-full of laughs, while always respecting the quality and integrity of the original.

The ingenious and joyfully colorful set by Tony Walton and lighting by Beverly Emmons fully realize the new "show within a show" concept. And fans of William Ivey Long's costumes will not be disappointed as he has again, somehow, managed to make an entire cast look sexy, even as they remain fully clothed.

Graciela Daniele has taken all this, added a brilliant cast, provided some of the most astute direction of her career, and tied the whole thing up in one glorious package, which is being opened - to shrieks and squeals of glee - eight times a week at the Marquis Theatre.

Any appearance by Bernadette Peters in a musical is just cause for popping open bottles of the best champagne and dancing in the streets. To this generation, she is the very definition of the phrase "Broadway star," and her name on a marquee conjures magic in exactly the same way the names Ethel Merman or Gertrude Lawrence held unspoken meaning and offered rich, delicious promises to the audience of their eras. Bernadette's Annie Oakley is a glorious creation, a wild, illiterate girl who, over the course of two and a half hours and through ten of Berlin's best songs grows into a dignified, wise, and happy young woman. As befits her status and reputation, Bernadette both sparkles and glows in a role which seems, though it's older than she is, to have been written just for her.

For Annie to work on all levels, it requires a strong and aggressive leading man. Tom Wopat's Frank Butler is that and more; handsome, virile, charming, aggravating, funny, and in every way believable as Annie's object of desire. His voice, an honest baritone, is captivating in his duets with Ms. Peters and comes into its own in his sly, wry "My Defenses Are Down."

The teaming of Andrew Palermo and Nicole Ruth Snelson as Tommy Keeler and Winnie Tate, the mandatory set of naive, young lovers, is a casting choice made in heaven. They dance, they sing, they pine for each other with a breathless energy in ways which can only be described as adorable.

The good-natured bravado of Ron Holgate's Buffalo Bill and the hilarious skepticism of Gregory Garagoza's Chief Sitting Bull add just the right dash of salt and vinegar as they push the plot along at a quick pace, aided but not abetted by Valerie Wright's brazen Dolly Tate and Peter Marx's likeable, forlorn Charlie Davenport.

The problem of cute children stealing every scene they're in is here handily avoided by the very professional Cassidy Ladden, Mia Walker, and Trevor McQueen Eaton, the three talented kids playing Annie Oakley's little brothers and sister. They know how and when to take center stage - boy, do they know how! - and then fade back into the scene to let the grownups have their fun.

And, fun it is. Glorious fun. Annie Get Your Gun is the musical you've been waiting and wishing for, the likes of which you hope will open every season on Broadway. Go! Be happy! Fall in love with Broadway all over again!

Annie Get Your Gun Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin - Book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields as revised by Peter Stone - Directed and Choreographed by Graciela Daniele - Starring Bernadette Peters and Tom Wopat. Also starring Valerie Wright, Peter Marx, Ronn Carroll, Gregory Zaragoza, Andrew Palermo, Nicole Ruth Snelson, Trevor McQueen Eaton, Cassidy Ladden, Mia Walker, and Ron Holgate.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 35 minutes, with one intermission occurring 1 hour and 20 minutes into the production.

Audience: No children under the age of 5 will be admitted.

Theatre: Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway between 45th and 46th Street. (Theatre is located inside of the Marriott Marquis Hotel.)

Dates and Times: Tuesday through Saturday at 8 P.M., Wednesday and Saturday at 2 P.M., Sunday at 3 P.M.

Ticket Prices: $20 to $75

Tickets by Phone: TicketMaster at (212) 307-4100, or outside the NY metro area (800) 755-4000

Tickets on line: TicketMaster On Line at http://events.ticketmaster.com/broadway/shows.html

Tickets in person: Marquis Theatre Box Office hours are Monday through Saturday 10 A.M. to 8:30 P.M., Sunday 12 Noon to 6 P.M. (The Box Office is located at 1535 Broadway between 45th and 46th Street, outside of the Marriott Marquis Hotel.)