Review: ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, Lavender Theatre

Probably the most joyful musical revival you will see this summer

By: Jul. 24, 2023
Review: ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, Lavender Theatre
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Review: ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, Lavender Theatre For theatre-goers wondering whether to travel to Chichester for nuns and Nazis or to Sheffield to see the last night of the Vietnam War, I would urge them to consider heading down to a Surrey Lavender farm for the inaugural production at the new Lavender Theatre; a foot-stomping and utterly joyful version of Annie Get Your Gun.

Irving Berlin's musical is based on the life of legendary sharpshooter, Annie Oakley, a woman who had a brilliant career in the circus. The story follows Annie as she meets sexist and egotisical performer Frank. They fall in and out of love and with a feminist hat on, it remains hard to accept that Annie feels she must compromise her skills to 'get her man' in the end. This revival emphasises that both Frank and Annie must battle their egos to be together.

SuRie is perfect as Annie; likeable, funny, with hints of vulnerability and the audience roots for her from the start. Charlie McCullagh is also excellent as Frank Butler, with just enough rugged charm and swaggering allure to make you see what Annie finds so appealing. The chemistry between the pair jumps off the stage; believable and natural. The hilarious and tightly honed duet of "Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)" is a show highlight.

They are supported by a cast that brims with energy and vigour. The wonderful opening number "There's No Business Like Show Business" is loud, bright and completely joyful. Elliot Broadfoot is an aimiable Buffalo Bill and Nina Bell and Joseph Vella are sweetly coy as the young couple Winnie and Tommy. 

Annie Get Your Gun is a show that is not without historical issues. The highly problematic  treatment of native Americans is handled well overall; Jay Faisca (who is Puerto-Rican American)'s Chief Sitting Bull is dressed in a sharp three piece suit, with a few feather pendants as a nod to his heritage. He speaks in, mainly, fluent English, but there remains a questions of why there is a need to retain any of the original broken language. However, Faisca's knowing looks and asides to the audience are impeccably timed and break any suggestion of caricature.

Much kudos must be given to musicians; directed by Debbi Clarke, they maintain vibrancy and clarity in their playing. Irving Berlin's music shines here. Simon Hardwick's direction makes this production feel bigger and brighter than its diminutive setting may suggest, although a few more props might be welcome.

The outer parts of the stage are little used, which seems a waste. Sound needs a little more work, with microphone drop outs impeding the cast's projection. It also odd to leave the children without personal microphones, as much of their excellent contribution is lost. Cast movement backstage also might need to be rethought, as it is all too easy to catch a glimpse or two of characters wandering around behind the trees.

At the Lavender Theatre the audience are sheltered from the elements, but there is no such luck for the cast. There is surely no better representation of complete professionalism that they carry on the show, regardless of torrential rain and howling wind whipping around the stage, without a flinch. On with the show indeed.

Read the guest blog from Jay Faisca, playing Sitting Bull, here.

Annie Get Your Gun is at the Lavender Theatre until 5 August

Photo Credit: Harry Elletson


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