Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cincinnati

Annie Get Your Gun

Also see Scott's review of Company

Sometimes, a wonderful lead performer can save an otherwise lackluster production. That is almost the case in La Comedia Dinner Theatre's current production of Annie Get Your Gun. Despite an almost perfect performance by Leslie Jo Bissett in the title role, this show is a difficult one to sit through given the uninspired direction, boring choreography, and uneven supporting performances.

Annie Get Your Gun, which debuted in 1946 starring Ethel Merman, follows the story of real-life performer Annie Oakley, a sure-shot with a rifle who found fame performing in Wild West shows. The audience is introduced to Annie as an illiterate country girl, but with time and hard work, she becomes a respected showbiz star, as well as a dignified woman.

The musical has some great songs provided by Irving Berlin. "I've Got The Sun In the Morning," "There's No Business Like Show Business," and "Anything You Can Do" are all classics and make the show a well-known commodity. Since 1946, there have been numerous revisions to the original book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields. La Comedia's production is based on the version by Peter Stone for the 1999 Broadway revival which features a "show within a show" concept. This approach provides for a bit of flexibility in allowing some showbiz pizzazz that would seem out of place in a straightforward presentation. Still, the slight story seems extremely formulaic by today's standards, and the book is a bit creaky whenever it strays too far from central character.

As Annie, Leslie Jo Bissett is perfectly wonderful. She sings the score with ease in a pleasant and strong voice reminiscent of Broadway revival Annie, Reba McEntire. Her acting is also first rate, including lots of spunk and tenderness, and the stage comes alive each time Ms. Bissett is the focus. Leading man David Greczek sings capably with a very nice lower range (though he had a few diction problems on opening night), but he lacks sufficient charisma for the role. There are a few solid performances turned in from the rest of the cast (namely Charlie Goetz as Sitting Bull), but there are some shaky portrayals present as well.

Director/Choreographer Thomas Morrissey does little to help things either. The staging is mostly bland, and the dances are either pedestrian or inappropriate for the time period. Matthew J. Evans provides a simple, vaudevillian-style set that serves the "show within the show" approach well. The costumes by Jody Williams and Jane Sizemore, along with the lighting by Geoffrey D. Fishburn, are suitable and attractive.

Annie Get Your Gun is a classic musical due in most part to its fine score. La Comedia is to be praised for casting a gem of a performer in Leslie Jo Bissett as the lead for their production, but, unfortunately, nothing else in the show comes close to meeting her standard. The musical continues through April 30, 2006, and tickets can be ordered online at or by phone at 1-800-677-9505.

-- Scott Cain

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