Review: Annie get your gun, Crucible Theatre

Anna-Jane Casey (Annie Oakley) in Annie get Your Gun at the Crucible Theatre
Anna-Jane Casey (Annie Oakley) in Annie get Your Gun at the Crucible Theatre

Annie Get Your Gun

Crucible Theatre

It’s great to discover so many famous Irving Berlin songs you didn’t know originated in this show. There’s No Business Like Show Business is the opening number and then becomes a refrain throughout but we also get Anything You Can Do, I Got the Sun in the Morning and Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly to warm the cockles.

Like her Piaf and Sweet Charity, Annie Oakley is one of those feisty female roles which fits Anna-Jane Casey like a glove. We first see her as a shambling, guffawing hillbilly who stumbles upon Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and after showing her sharpshooting prowess by matching star marksman Frank Butler is signed up and goes on to international stardom, by which time she has scrubbed up.

She draws out all the comedy in Annie’s eccentricity and the pathos in such songs as You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun and I Got Lost in Her Arms. And then ramps it up Ethel Merman-style at other moments such as the rousing Anything You Can Do duet with the strong-voiced Ben Lewis’s petulant charmer Frank .

Annie’s dilemma is that she has fallen for Frank at first sight but romance is doomed because he can’t accept being eclipsed as the star of the show. Though this revised version introduced by Peter Stone for a Broadway revival in 1999 altered the original Taming of the Shrew-style ending by allowing Frank to make a selfless gesture, the show still has some dated values.

Beyond the on-off Annie and Frank love affair there isn’t much other story beyond the plight of young star-crossed lovers (sweet performances from Lauren Hall and Cleve September) and the financial perils of taking big shows on the road.

Nevertheless the supporting cast in Paul Foster’s production make the most of what they’ve got and it all gets by on its hearty energy. Laura Hopkins’ set evolves (and revolves) variously but largely leaves the stage open for Alistair David’s lively choreography.

Ian Soutar