One might expect Irving Berlin’s classic musical Annie Get Your Gun to feel dated and slightly flat compared to its newer and flashier rivals, but I am happy to report this just isn’t the case. Telling the story of the Annie Oakley, the fastest shot in the west, and her love/rivalry with the pistol swinging Frank Butler, Annie Get Your Gun is less of a cheesy Sunday afternoon western and much more a thoroughly enjoyable homage to show business. With grade A performances, damn upbeat tempo and filled to the rafters with good ol’ fashioned show tunes, this is one deceptively brilliant show.
Rather than bring a rehash of past glories and a twee cowboy musical, Annie Get Your Gun has been revamped to appeal to theatre lovers who just can’t get enough of this business we call show. Paul Fransworth’s design harks back to the touring Big Tops with vintage stylings giving it a vaudeville twist, while the sumptuous costumes have clearly been influenced by the Steampunk genre meaning there isn’t a fringed jacket in sight.
As Frank Butler, the fastest sharp shooter in the west and Annie’s love interest, Jason Donovan certainly turns on the twinkly charm he’s famed for. There’s a reason why scores of women flooded the New Wimbledon Theatre and Donovan has an easy charisma and smile that will melt a certain type of heart. I would have liked him to be a smidge sharper on the choreography and despite being charming there was none of the raw sexiness that would explain Annie Oakley’s enduring love.
As Annie Oakley herself Emma Williams is astounding; utterly breathtaking and one of the strongest performances in the theatre this year. Her voice and performance starts as pure country & western, bringing out a little Dolly Parton in the naive Annie, but as the show progresses Williams becomes akin the stars of the silver screen with a delicacy and purity to her performance. Full of beans and sparkiness, Emma Williams is dazzling and makes the show a must-see.
Don’t think that western musicals are your thing? Neither did I, but Annie Get Your Gun turned out to be a feel-good and joyous 3 hours that will rekindle your love affair with the theatre and make you want to run away to the Wild West.
Reviewed by Roz Carter