BWW Reviews: ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham, July 2 2014
Annie Get Your Gun premiered on Broadway nearly 70 years ago and many productions have graced stages across the world ever since then, plus a major MGM film in 1950 starring Betty Hutton. There has been a wide array of leading ladies who have played Annie Oakley including Ethel Merman, Dolores Gray, Suzi Quatro, Bernadette Peters, Jane Horrocks to name but a few and the show has been a huge international hit.
The book is fairly simple and centres around the love/hate relationship between Frank Butler, allegedly the best sharp shooter in the world, and Annie Oakley who soon challenges him to his title. There is a show within a show element which is slightly unnecessary with Buffalo Bill acting as a sort-of ringmaster for the proceedings. There is also a sub-love story between Winnie Tate and Tommy Keeler who also have an act in the show. They are being forced apart by Winnie's sister Dolly due to her disapproval of Tommy's ethnic background and the fact Winnie is technically a minor at 17 years old.
The stage design by Paul Farnsworth is very appealing with a big top circus feel and having the band onstage too adds another dimension. The different locations are formed by a selection of wooden boxes and aided by Jason Taylor's lighting worked very well. Ian Talbot's direction and Lizzi Gee's choreography are both excellent and keep the pace fluid.
Jason Donovan is the star casting for the show as Frank alongside Norman Pace as Buffalo Bill. Pace gives a more than competent turn but unfortunately Donovan's performance does fall short of the mark. His vocals lacked power and seemed very weak when singing alongside other cast members. Also his acting performance is flat and one-dimensional. I did not believe that Annie could fall for Frank in such a big way when he doesn't give her anything to latch onto.
This said, Emma Williams as Annie is absolutely sublime and every inch the leading lady. She has bundles of personality needed for the character and is so comfortable in the role. Her vocals are stunning and in each different show I see her in, she is getting stronger and stronger. Another performance that captured my attention throughout was Lorna Want as Winnie. She attacks the material with conviction and is a brilliant triple threat.
Annie Get Your Gun is at the New Alexandra Theatre until 5 July and continues to tour until October 2014.