Because the writers of a musical create encore numbers, to be performed when the number itself gets lots of applause and the audience obviously wants more, this does not mean that those encore numbers should be performed routinely as part of the show.
Davis Musical Theater Company’s new production of “Annie Get Your Gun” is replete with unwarranted encores. With a show which runs just slightly under 3 hours, some thought might be given to leaving out the encores that aren’t demanded by audience applause.
Director/Choreographer Ron Cisneros has chosen to use the original 1946 version of the Irving Berlin classic (with book by Herbert & Dorothy Fields). The show was updated by Peter Stone in 1999 to be more politically correct, particularly in its depiction of Native Americans. The DMTC version, however, is the one we all remember from either Ethel Merman belting out “There’s No Business Like Show Business” on stage, or the M.G.M. musical, starring Betty Hutton.
Lauren Miller, last seen as the hormone-charged Ado Annie in DMTC’s “Oklahoma!”, is a spunky and vivacious Annie Oakley, the backwoods sharpshooter who can’t read or write, but who can outshoot almost anyone. Miller has a strident sound to her voice, which is perfect for the newly emerged Annie, in songs like “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly,” or “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,” but which would be more pleasant if modulated somewhat in slower numbers like the lovely “Moonshine Lullaby” or “They Say It’s Wonderful.”
Annie’s little siblings are played by Petra Favorite, Arrin Graham, Sabrina Schloss and Matthew Fyhie, each of whom give engaging performances.
DMTC’s Renaissance Man, Mike McElroy (who designed the set and lights for last year’s “Titanic”) gives a solid performance as Frank Butler, the headliner of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. He is at his best singing “My Defenses are Down,” where his winsome appearance explains why all the ladies fawn all over him.
Annie is also taken in by Butler’s good looks and falls in love with him, though his tastes lean toward a more refined woman (“The Girl that I Marry”) and he is also threatened by her ability to shoot.
Claire Impens is the brazen Dolly Tate, Frank’s buxom assistant, who harbors an unrequited passion for Frank.
Paul Schechter is Charlie Davenport, the Wild West Show’s advance man. Schechter has a real flair for being a salesman.
Mary Young is suitably bombastic as Wilson, who runs the local hotel and has had enough of show biz folks messing up her fine establishment.
Adam Sartain is Buffalo Bill; Dan Linebarger is his competitor, Pawnee Bill; and Steve Isaacson is Chief Sitting Bull, who invests in Cody’s show and adopts Annie as his daughter.
The adoption scene was dropped from the 1999 revision because of the stereotypical image of Native Americans it presented, and the because of objection to Annie’s song and dance (“I’m an Indian Too,” with lyrics like “Looking like a flour sack / With two papooses on my back / And three papooses on the way” and names like “Battle Axe, Hatchet Face, Eagle Nose and Big Chief Hole-in-the-Ground.”
In 2007, and especially on the heels of the recent Imus incident, it can be an uncomfortable scene to watch, despite the fact that it is designed to be humorous – or perhaps because it is designed to be humorous.
Director Cisneros has made maximum use of the Hoblit Theater, bringing his wild west show in from the back of the house and down the stairs to the stage, which gives a bigger feel to what is going on, in this show which really needs to be a “spectacle.”
Costume design is by Jean Henderson. Steve Isaacson has designed the set, which, in the opening scene, appeared to wobble a lot whenever someone slammed the door to the hotel. Dannette Vassar has done a nice job with lighting design.
“Annie Get Your Gun” is a pleasant show which drags a bit, but is nonetheless enjoyable. It does not, however, warrant the number of encores contained within the body of the show, with the possible exception of “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,” whose encore gives Mary Young a chance to join Annie in the song and dance.