Annie Get Your Gun

Matthew Ashford and
Jenn Colella

Annie Get Your Gun, so chockful of superb Irving Berlin songs, might be an entertaining evening simply with good voices to put the numbers over. But in Pittsburgh CLO's current production, you get more. Much more. What you get is Jenn Colella as Annie Oakley: a feisty, cute, firecracker of a character—tomboyish on the outside, with the girly side emerging. Colella manages to be all that Annie is without being annoying or overbearing, and it's easy to see why Frank Butler (the dashing Matthew Ashford) goes for the rough-around-the-edges sharpshooter in a big way.

More (revival) Reba-like than (original) Merman-like (and not a bit like Bernadette), Colella brings the twang, the bluster and the naivete necessary to make for a charming Annie. And, yes, she sings those Berlin beauties to the hilt. Her "I Got Lost In His Arms" is particularly lovely (where she softens a bit of the southern accent). Ashford does a great job of not trying to compete with her, for this is truly Annie's show. Not that he doesn't have a beautiful, strong voice and not that he doesn't bring an easygoing, natural manner for a very appealing Frank Butler. They both play their parts just right, and the pairing is wonderful (so they say) throughout, with a fun and lively "Anything You Can Do" to top it all off.

Yes, this is the "crafted for our time" revisal staging by Peter Stone, but no matter. The terrific leads—with great support from a talented ensemble—the gorgeous songs, the good story (original book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields), and solid production values hit the bullseye. Supporting standouts include Patrick Boll as Buffalo Bill Cody, Paula Leggett Chase as Dolly Tate, and, especially, Joel Blum who puts some extra pizazz into the role of Charlie Davenport. Orville Mendoza doesn't have a whole lot to do here but gets my admiration for effectively playing Ito in Mame and Chief Sitting Bull in Annie Get Your Gun in the same month. The talented ensemble does a very nice job with John Macinnis' choreography, including a very nicely balanced "My Defenses Are Down" and fun pairs work in the ballroom scenes. Bruce Brockman's sets are simple but suitable, and costuming by FCLO Music Theater Costumes works well, especially the gorgeous outfit provided for Colella in the shooting match scene.

Director Charles Repole pulls it all together in this snappy, exhilarating production with added support from musical director Tom Helm and orchestra.

It's possible the extra-long (a whole two weeks!) run was scheduled in anticipation of accommodating Ashford's television fan base ("Days of Our Lives"), but it's nice that there is a bit of time for word of mouth to spread; based on the audience reaction opening night, that word of mouth started as soon as the curtain went down. I'm not familiar with Ashford's television work, but he shows he is a true and accomplished musical theatre man and seems to really enjoy it, as does Colella. No matter what gets them into the theater, those attending this show will be well satisfied.

Annie Get Your Gun at Pittsburgh CLO, Van Kaplan Executive Producer. Through August 3 at the Benedum Center. For performance and ticket information, call 412-456-6666 or visit

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-- Ann Miner

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