Annie Get Your Gun

May 17 2019 | By More

★★★☆☆    Tootin’ ‘n’ Shootin’

The Brunton: Wed 15 – Sat 18 May 2019
Review by Thom Dibdin

There’s no shooting of vocal blanks from Encore and Musical Youth in this thoroughly entertaining and engaging production of Annie Get Your Gun at the Brunton through to Saturday.

The company ensures that Irving Berlin’s music and lyrics are delivered with clarity, emotion and enough oomph to keep the show fizzing along. Even if such smoothness falters between-numbers.

Rebecca Kinross and Kevin MacConnachie. Pic: Encore

And those numbers are some of the true classics of musical theatre. From the opening There’s No Business like Show Business to the great pre-finale duelling duet, Anything You Can Do, these are the sort of songs which you start humming as soon as you hear the titles – never mind on the way home.

Those tunes carry the musical version of the story of sharp shooter Annie Oakley, who joined Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show at the age of 15, having beaten resident sharp shooter Frank Butler in a take-on-all-comers competition. Despite a tempestuous relationship, she and Butler eventually married.

It’s all told in Herbert and Dorothy Fields’ book as a series of vignettes, narrated by Buffalo Bill himself who calls down the scenery as the plot jumps easily along. Alan Taylor has the stage presence to make it all work sweetly as Bill, while drifting easily between narrator and character.

Ian McKenna also has great presence and a sharp ear for the comic timing as the Wild West Show’s stage manager, Charlie Davenport, charged with trying to take the finances of the under-performing show back into the black. Bob Martin gives a stately and fittingly poised performance as Chief Sitting Bull.

charm, naivety and no-nonsense sass

The focus though is on Annie, played with a wonderful combination of charm, naivety and no-nonsense sass by Rebecca Kinross. Her early scenes, when in appearance she is little more than a grubby urchin with a trio of younger siblings in tow, are a riot of comedy.

Rachel Pettigrew, Rebecca Kinross and Alison Henry (Rear), with Pippa McNeill and Sam Scott. Pic Encore

Kinross doesn’t have the strongest voice on the stage, but she knows how to sell a song and can interact with the best – whether it is with Alison Henry as Miss Wilson, the sharp proprietor of the hotel where Annie was discovered in the racy double-entendres of Doin’ What Comes Naturally, or when making cow eyes at Frank in The Girl That I Marry.

There’s no question of Annie’s feelings for Frank. Although Kevin MacConnachie ensures that his character is blind to both her longing and his own real feelings. At least until she returns in later scenes, a rather more sophisticated young woman,

Rounding out the company, Gillian Hunter gets her teeth into the baddie role of Dolly Tate, Frank’s assistant who has been holding a torch for him for many years, to no avail. And whose anti-native American prejudices bubble over when her own sister Winnie (the excellent Jen Harris) wants to marry her partner in the knife throwing act, who is half native American.

bubbling away

Harris and Ralph Bannerman – fighting an almost unholy wig – as Tommy Keeler, keep their own sub-plot bubbling away and even make the schmaltz of their romantic duets stand up.

One of the joys of this amateur company is that while it is of a very mixed ability, director and MD Peter Antonelli and choreographer Heather Antonelli work hard to make sure that every member of the cast gets their time in the limelight.

From the trio of siblings cast from Musical Youth – the commendably focussed Pippa McNeil, Sam Scott and Rachel Pettigrew on the night we were in – or the chorus members who pull on long-sleeved white gloves as New York society ladies greeting Annie on her return from Europe, everyone is on point.

What it points to is a company which is operating within its ability – but just that little bit beyond its comfort zone to help make it a special production and ensure that, in the words of Show Business, everyone gets to enjoy stealing that extra bow.

Running time two hours and 30 minutes (including one interval)
The Brunton, Ladywell Way, Musselburgh EH21 6AA. Phone booking: 0131 665 2240
Wednesday 14 – Saturday 18 May 2019.
Evenings: 7.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

The cast of Annie Get Your Gun. Pic: Encore


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