BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Annie Get Your Gun
Annie Get Your Gun with Reba McEntire
There's no business like good casting business . . .
Ethel Merman may have been Irving Berlin's dream Annie Oakley. hearty, boisterous Annie has shadowed Annies of screen and stage versions ever since. But as smartly cast revivals of many shows have proved over and over again, no one really owns a role.
and Brent Barret Shooting It Out
When the diminutive Bernadette Peters, looking and sounding nothing like Merman, strapped on her holster for the revival at the Marquis, she proved an adorable and original Annie. By force of her own considerable Broadway star power, Peters made the revivical (reconceived and partially rewritten to bring 1949 in line with 1999) a hit show. When Peters left new Annies (SusanLucie and Cheryl Ladd) had to contend as much with Bernadette's legacy as Ethel's.
Now, good casting -- make that brilliant casting -- has brought another magnificent Annie to the Marquis -- Reba McEntire, a major star on the country music horizon but a newcomer to Broadway. While she's a savvy, sophisticated performer, the twang in the Oklahoma born McEntire's voice is very much "Doin' What Comes Naturally." As Peters didn't try to compete with the Merman role model but managed to create her own softer and more romantic alternative, so McEntire is no imitation Peters. Like Peters, but in her own unique style, she does the Berlin songs proud. William Ivey Long has designed her some new duds that are right on the mark for her comically countryfied movements. Her years on the concert stage, a stint as a television miniseries Annie Oakley and appearances in a number of films have prepared her well for this Broadway debut. Besides a rich and varied voice, she brings all of Annie's feisty self-confidence, humor and aggressive yearning for the man she's sure as shootin' goin' to gat. To paraphrase one of the show's songs, "they'll say she's wonderful" whether she's singing a nifty novelty number or a romantic ballad. If the show-stopping applause and cheers heard throughout the official press opening I attended are an indication, Reba is exactly the shot in the arm to keep sales of this two-year-old musical going and growing.
Of course, a new Annie Oakley also deserves a new Frank Butler. Brent Barrett, is very much a dashing he-man who can make you understand Annie's comic love at first sight near-swoon. The way the roles were written, the big-lug-with-a-sensitive-heart transformation was never all that easy to swallow. But then, this is a 1940s fluff of a libretto, and this big lug looks exactly like a romatntic lead in a musical should. What's more he sings like a dream and brings his own touching swagger and spark to this newly invigorated musical. If ever a replacement cast deserved its own cast album, this is the one!
Generally speaking, my comments, on the original Broadway opening and Susan Davidson's during its DC trial run, still apply even though a number of the major and minor players have changed. Valerie Wright who still plays the quasi-villainness Dolly Tate, and Peter Marx as the show manager Charlie Davenport, show no signs of wear and tear whatsoever. Neither does the staging. In fact everything has a fresher, livelier feel. The lovely ballroom scene in Act 2 looks better than ever and my wish for a ten minute trim has been heeded, probably because of the omission of one of the show's more missable songs, "I'll Share It All With You." As well cast as Reba McEntire proves to be, the real star of Annie Get Your Gun -- in 1946, in 1999 and in 200 -- is Berlin's music. Song after hum-it, whistle-it song.
-- Elyse Sommer, 2/08/01
Annie Get Your Gun--
--- PreviousReview ---
Easy to sing, easy to say, easy to remember and applicable to everyday events' is a good rule for a
-- Irving Berlin in a 1954 interview.
Easy to sing, easy to say, easy to remember and applicable to everyday events' is a good rule
for a phrase ---Irving Berlin
Berlin was truly a man who stuck to his own advice. his tunes and lyrics have embedded themselves into the public's consciousness. Annie Get Your Gun contains a mind-boggling array of beloved and delightful as ever standards.
As for Bernadette Peters, I couldn't agree more with Susan Davidson's opening statement in her
review of the show during it's DC tenure. There is indeed no talent like Bernadette Peters'!
While Her Annie does go a bit overboard on a hokey hillbilly twang, she delivers so solidly in
everything else -- singing, acting, comedic flair -- that you almost end up liking it.
Irving Berlin may have written this little hit factory with Ethel Merman in mind, but I'm
reasonably sure he'd be the first to applaud Peters' Annie.
As for the man Annie is so gungho to nab, even if it means deliberately losing the final shooting
match, I think Tom Wopat deserves better than "pleasant." His Frank Butler may be no
Rhett Butler and his baritone not as poperatic as Howard Keel's, but he's got his own
endearing brand of laid back dash and strong song delivery. Most importantly, his feeling for and interaction with Annie comes through with warmth and convinction and his "My Defenses Are Down" solo and his "An Old Fashioned
Wedding" and "Anything You Can Do" duets with Annie are loaded with verve and charm.
The show has too large a cast for extensive individual comments, especially when
the star has so many strong points worth mentioning. However, the ensemble does have its standouts. Valerie Wright as Dolly Tate
the demon spinster and Frank Butler's assistant and Nicole Ruth Snelson as her underaged kid
sister Winnie add much to the comic and musical pleasures of the production. Andrew
Palermo as Winnie's half-Indian boyfriend is one of the show's outstanding hoofers.
The disappointments Susan referred to haven't disappeared between the trip from the
Beltway to Broadway. Peter Stone's jokey updating succeeds in getting a lot of laughs,
but I hardly think that the comedy writers for Saturday Night Live need worry about their
jobs. Though the much mentioned politically incorrect Indian songs have been deleted, Chief Sitting Bull is no less a stereotype now that he comes off as a savvy romantic
counselor and entrepreneur. The show-within-a-show idea is a good one but too intrusively
so. Too bad Mr. Stone, director Daniele and set designer Tony Walton didn't
see Roger Rees's very smart use of this device in last summer's Williamstown Theatre Festival
revival of The Rivals The traveling theater troupe who made that play their current
performance piece never intruded into the play itself as is the case here, right to the set (see
Susan's opinion that the choreography by Graciela Daniele and Jeff Calhoun is only occasionally
inspired remains valid. Those inspired dances are most in evidence during the second act --
notably the lovely ballroom number at its beginning. Inspired or not, it is all lively and there's more of it than we've seen in many a recent musical. As for the culotte outfit Susan didn't
like, William Ivey Long has not given Peters' a new one. But, oh, that great hourglass
waistline ball gown and some of the other fun fashions. I'd settle for a few mistakes in my
closet for a few of the "drop dead" flattering numbers the star as well as the ensemble get to
At 2 hours and 40 minutes, the Broadway production has apparently been trimmed down by at
least ten minutes. Another ten minute slimming would further help to keep the sluggish moments at
Finally, as a footnote to Susan's historical footnote about Irving Berlin's failure to make it as a
Kennedy Center Honoree. He also never had a Broadway theater named in his honor. It would
be a coup of good public relations if the Marriott Marquis hotel would follow the title "I'll Share It
All With You" as an incentive to rename the theater it houses The Irving Berlin Theater at
the Marriott Marquis.
The CD of the Current
Annie Get Your Gun
For earlier CD versions of the show
ANNIE GET YOUR GUN
Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields, newly revised by
Directed by Graciela Daniele
Co-choreographed by Graciela Daniele and Jeff
Bernadette Peters - Annie Oakley
Tom Wopat - Frank Butler
Dolly Tate - Valerie Wright
Tommy Keeler - Andrew Palermo
Winnie Tate - Nicole Ruth Snelsom
Mac/Running Deer - Kevin Bailey
Charlie Davenport - Peter Marx
Pawnee Bill - Ronn Carroll
Chief Sitting Bull - Gregory Zaragoza
Jessie Oakley - Cassidy Ladden
Nellie Oakley - Mia Walker
Little Jake - Trevor McQueen Eaton
Eagle Feather - Carlos Lopez
Dining Car Waiter - Brad Bradley
Sleeping Car Porter - Patrick Wetzel
Band Leader - Marvin Laird
Mrs. Schuyler Adams - Julia Fowler
Sylvia Potter-Porter - Jenny-Lynn Suckling
With: Shaun Amyot, Randy Donaldson, Madeleine Ehlert, Kisha Howard, Adrienne Hurd, Keri
Lee, Desiree Parkman, Eric Sciotto, Kelli Bond Severson, Timothy Edward Smith, David
Set design: Tony Walton
Costume design: William Ivey Long
Lighting Design: Beverly Emmons
Musical Direction: Marvin Laird
Musical Supervision: John McDaniel
Sound design: G. Thomas Clark
Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway (212/ 307-4100 398-8383, or (212) 575-1044)
Previews 2/02/99-3/03/99; opened 3/04/99
Reviewed by Elyse Sommerbased on 3/09 performance
There's No Business Like Show Business/Frank and Company
Doin' What Comes Natur'lly/Annie, Kids and Foster Wilson
The Girl That I Marry/Frank and Annie
You Can't Get a Man With a Gun/Annie
There''s No Business Like Show Business/ (reprise)/Frank, Buffalo Bill, Charlie and
I'll Share It All With You/Tommy, Winnie and Company
Moonshine Lullaby/Annie, Kids and Ensemble Trio
There's No Business Like Show Business (reprise)/Annie
They Say It's Wonderful.Annie and Frank
My Defenses Are Down/Frank and Young Men
The Trick/Annie and Company
Finale Act I: You Can't Get a Man With a Gun (reprise)/.Annie
Lost in His Arms/Annie
Who Do You Love, I Hope/Tommy, Winnie and Company
I Got the Sun in the Morning/Annie and Company
An Old Fashioned Wedding/Annie and Frank
The Girl That I Marry (reprise)/Frank
Anything You Can Do/Annie and Frank
They Say It's Wonderful (reprise)/Annie, Frank and Company