Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of The Fantasticks
Annie Get Your Gun could have the greatest score every written for a musical comedy. I believe it has more hit songs than any other single musical: "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun," "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly," "The Girl That I Marry," and that is just in the first scene. How about "They Say It's Wonderful," "(I Got the) Sun in the Morning" and "Anything You Can Do"? And that still leaves out my favorite song in the show, "Moonshine Lullaby." Unfortunately, the book by Dorothy and Herbert Fields isn't much more than adequate. There are three versions, the original 1946, a slightly revised 1966 version that eliminates the ingenue couple and their two weak songs ("I'll Share It All with You" and "Who Do You Love, I Hope?"), and the 1999, revised by Peter Stone which reinstates these two characters and their songs and eliminates two songs at the top of the show ("Buffalo Bill" and "I'm a Bad, Bad Man") which effectively set up the story and the character of the male lead, Frank Butler.
The 1999 version also has updated orchestrations, which are in my mind vastly inferior to the Robert Russell Bennett originals. There is a story in Richard Rodgers' autobiography about Annie Get Your Gun (he and Oscar Hammerstein produced it on Broadway), which says that Irving Berlin didn't like the original charts and so they brought Russell Bennett in to redo them. Now, Rodgers was known to be frugal, so if he spent all this money on new arrangements, it is going to be hard to better them. It is the 1999 revised version that is being used for The Players Center production.
Director Kathy Junkins draws her cast from the area's deep pool of talent, so what is on stage is a lively community theater production of this well-loved musical. Eliza Engle-Morehouse is Annie Oakley, opposite the Frank Butler of Mark Athridge. Engle-Morehouse sings with a well-trained voice, less belt, more legitimate. He has a creamy baritone, perfect for the role. Amanda Heisey vamps as Frank's assistant Dolly Tate. Mick Mazaeda and Belle Babcock are the ingenue couple, Winnie Tate and Tommy Keeler. The exhibit real charm, but I still am not a big fan of their songs.
Choreography is by Charlie Logan, who gets good results by staying within his cast's abilities. Music direction is in the capable hands of Alan Corey who leads an 11-member ensemble, including Seth Wertz doubling incredibly on harp and French horn.
The effective set designs are by Jeff Webber, the costumes are by Tim Beltley, and lighting is by Michael Pasquini.
Annie Get Your Gun, through October 7, 2018, at The Players Centre for Performing Arts, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota FL. Box Office: 941-365-2494. For more information visit www.theplayers.org.