August 12, 2010
“Annie Get Your Gun,” A Bulls-Eye for CLOC
By WILLIAM GRACE
There’s plenty for everyone to enjoy in the College Light Opera Company’s production of Irving Berlin’s “Annie Get Your Gun,” which opened on Tuesday at the Highfield Theatre in Falmouth. You may smile knowingly at the old-fashioned love story and the dated portrayal of American Indians but you’ve got to love the familiar music and lyrics of so many of Berlin’s great songs. There are at least seven songs that have become classics in American music and, even for Berlin, that is a lot in one show.
The overture, conducted by Mary Marcell, starts toes tapping to the melodies of “I Got the Sun in the Morning,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “They Say It’s Wonderful,” “You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun,” and “The Girl that I Marry.” Later you hear “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly,” and “Anything You Can Do.”
Alexandra Linn Desaulniers as Annie Oakley, the legendary sharpshooter of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, brings a big smile and a big voice to the stage for this proto-feminist character whose only weakness is falling instantly in love with a man who is threatened by her self-confidence and ambition. She laments that “…he won’t buy pajamas for pistol-packin’ mommas….”
Scott Wasserman as Frank Butler, Annie’s sharpshooting rival and future husband, gives equal energy and exuberance to his role. Annie and Frank spar repeatedly through the evening as he taunts her with his description of the dainty china doll girl he might marry and she fires back that she can do anything better than he can. Their “I Can Do Anything” duet toward the end of the second act is brilliantly staged. Their voices are perfect for the parts, bringing out the humor of the clever lyrics and taking the sting out of Annie’s apparent capitulation in the last shootout. Annie may have lost the battle but she most definitely won the war.
James Soller plays Charlie Davenport, tour manager of the Wild West Show, and Conner Lewis plays Buffalo Bill Cody. Davenport, Cody, and Butler musically seduce the innocent Annie into joining their traveling troupe with a rousing chorus “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Annie adds her voice to theirs and makes the sentiment her own as she makes her dreams of celebrity come true. The song has the same magic sung by these four as it does later when the 30-voice ensemble makes it ring in the rafters.
The story line includes Chief Sitting Bull, who was part of Cody’s show. Gabriel DiGennaro deadpans some very funny lines and presides over the tribal adoption of Annie during an elaborate Broadway version of a ritual dance. Annie embraces her new family, singing “I’m an Indian.” Even in 1946 when the show opened this must have been an awkward scene, but the choreography and music are great, and this production is carried off with dignity.
Guest artists for this production include Falmouth 5th grader J. Spencer Lawrence as Annie’s brother, Little Jake; Woods Hole 8th grader Grace Brakeman; and Sagamore Beach 8th grader Kate McKenna as Annie’s sisters, Nellie and Jessie, respectively. They sing and dance like real troupers.
Emily K. Byrne plays Dolly Tate who foments trouble for Annie at every turn. Kyle Yampiro plays Foster Wilson, the canny hotel owner who sponsors Annie in her first sharpshooting match. His voice blends nicely with Annie’s in “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly.”
Sets include a Pullman car, a circus tent for the traveling show, and a grand ballroom in a New York City hotel. One brilliant touch of imaginative stageing puts Annie on a loud motorcycle speeding (sort of) across the big top shooting out lights.
“Annie Get Your Gun,” continues through Saturday, August 14, at 8 PM nightly; with a matinee on Thursday, August 12 at 2 PM. Highfield Theatre is 58 Highfield Drive, in Falmouth. Tickets are available by calling the CLOC box office at 508-548-0668. Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Patience” opens on August 17.
Mr. Grace is a summer resident of Pocasset who loves musical theater.