BWW Interview: Lauren Imhoff, Director of ANNIE GET YOUR GUN at Mill Town Players
I admit it - I have a bias. I love Annie Get Your Gun.
I was in a production in high school, so I've got a lot of great memories based on that alone. But it's the music, those amazing, wonderful, hummable Irving Berlin songs that really stick with me. What a score. And what a fun show.
Mill Town Players will put their own spin on this classic musical in their new production opening July 19. We asked the director, Lauren Imhoff, to tell us a little about what to expect.
BWW: This is, of course, a classic show. What's your approach to the material?
I have leaned into the show within a show concept, that is introduced during the opening number "There's No Business Like Show Business". As show people ourselves, we perform because we love story telling. We thrive off the excitement an audience feels as our story unfolds before them. It is important, especially with classic shows, to look beyond the sometimes dated and unfamiliar language of time gone by, and to connect once again with the heart of the characters. Though our language patterns, phrase deliveries, and verbal expressions have changed since this show was written in the 1940s, this story is still relevant today. It is about real people with truthful emotions. It has been my goal to reveal the honesty and bring it to the surface to shine bright.
What happy discoveries have you made during the rehearsal process?
The complexity of the relationship between Frank and Annie came as a bit of a surprise. The first time I read the script, I felt their 'meet cute' scene screamed of love at first sight. As I revisited the text, I found that this isn't the case at all. Their relationship builds with each encounter taking us on quite the roller coaster. In working with our leading actors, Bradley Lucore and Sarah Greene, we have explored the ups and downs of the characters' connection; the growth of their friendship, the moments of pride, and those of hesitancy. There is friendly competition, fits of passion, moments of humility, and the vulnerability of falling in love, resulting in a fascinating love story.
Besides the fantastic songs - "There's No Business Like Show Business," "Anything You Can Do," "The Girl That I Marry" and so many more - what do you think makes this show continue to be such a crowd pleaser?
You are right- The music is a big reason why people love this show. One of my favorite numbers is "I've Got The Sun In The Morning". This song delivers a message that rings true today: that we need not follow work place success, financial gains, or power to find happiness. Annie reminds us to appreciate the simple joys of life. Her character (and real life journey) is one not to be forgotten. She is a leading lady we all wish to root for. She knows who she is and isn't ashamed of it. She's funny, bold, and is a real firecracker. She's a great marksman and doesn't apologize for being a master in her field. Above all else, she remembers that all people from all backgrounds deserve to be treated with kindness.
Tell us a little about some principal cast and crew members.
Our story kicks off with Buffalo Bill, played by Will Ragland. It has been wonderful having Will, Executive Artistic Director of Mill Town Players, step into this role. Buffalo Bill is the founder of his Wild West show and the narrator of our story. Will knows the ins and outs of show business personally, so he's been a natural in this role. Our show is anchored by the characters of Frank Butler (played by Bradley Lucore) and of course, Annie Oakley (Sarah Greene). They are both incredible talents and have truly brought these characters to life. Their voices soar on each and every one of these fantastic songs. Sarah's vocal strength on "You Can't Get A Man With A Gun" astounds me, and Bradley's tone on "The Girl That I Marry" sends me back to the golden age of baritones. I can't wait to see how they wow an audience on opening night! As in most classic musicals, there is a supporting comedic couple. We are lucky to have the roles of Tommy Keeler and Winnie Tate played by Drake King and Waverly Speranza. Their flirtation and courtship brings a smile to my face. Their numbers, "I'll Share It All With You" in the first act and "Who Do You Love, I Hope?" in the second act, are true highlights to look forward to.
And finally - which cast member can actually hold a note the longest?
My money is on Annie, but I'm sure someone will think they can do it better.
Annie Get Your Gun runs July 19 - August 4 at Mill Town Players in Pelzer, SC. For showtimes and additional information visit milltownplayers.org.