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2nd Star Productions’ Annie Get Your Gun

Hear those old spectacular songs sung by strong new voices

Alexa Haines sings Annie with a sure voice and plenty of spark. <<photo by Nathan Bowen>>
     When Annie Get Your Gun opened on Broadway in 1946, it was a star vehicle for the brassy, trumpet-voiced Ethel Merman. Irving Berlin’s songs became legendary, from the lively There’s No Business Like Show Business and Anything You Can Do to the romantic They Say It’s Wonderful and I Got Lost in His Arms.
     When Merman as Annie sang You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun about her love for hotshot Frank Butler, it was a product of the times. To succeed at romance, a woman had to fail at manly pursuits, lest she wreck her intended’s ego.
     Those lessons are softened in a 1999 version re-written by playwright Peter Stone (1776) for modern audiences. Softening also takes away a bit of the bite that made the play sharp. In the original, for example, Annie let Frank win their shooting contest. Now, they play to a draw. Still, you get to hear those wonderful songs, and the voices delivering those songs stand out in 2nd Star’s production.
     Alexa Haines sings Annie with a sure voice and plenty of spark. Her Doin’ What Comes Naturally with siblings (Sophia Riazi-Sekowski, Zoe Smith and Rowan Titus, all delightful) is a ball of fun. Yet she can pivot into a stirring rendition of the ballad They Say It’s Wonderful with Frank that is, well, wonderful.
     As Frank, Christopher Overly — who played God in 2nd Star’s brilliant production of Children of Eden — has a nice chemistry with Haines. When his pleasant baritone starts the show with an a capella version of There’s No Business, and know we are in for a lyrical evening. 
     The ensemble too, contributes, especially when a trio of men joins Annie and her siblings for Moonshine Lullaby. The cowboy trio aren’t credited in the program, but their beautiful three-part harmony is worthy of mention. 
     Julian Ball is the spittin’ image of Buffalo Bill, with a nice command of this show within a show as he tells the story of Annie and Frank within the context of this Wild West Show.
     As show manager Charlie Davenport, Eric Meadows is suitably frantic, giving us several comic moments as he tries to hold things together. 
The character of Sitting Bull remains, despite Stone’s softened the original show’s references to American Indians that today would not be politically correct. Director Atticus Cooper Boidy’s choice to cast a woman in the role seems curious, but Marie Nearing’s performance is funny and direct without relying on caricature.
     Indeed, the entire ensemble is strong vocally, and Boidy does a nice job keeping things moving with life and energy (though the kids might be reminded that nobody high-five’d in the 1800s).
     Singers will be better served as the orchestra tightens up during the run. Several numbers began haltingly as the orchestra sought its rhythm, despite the effort of the leads to push a steady pace. Once the 15-piece group fell into a groove, they sounded excellent playing Berlin’s difficult music.
     Some dance numbers also seemed hesitant, either a result of the orchestra’s reticence or of choreography that asks too much of non-dancers — all issues likely to be ironed out as the run continues.
     Jane Wingard’s set maintains 2nd Star’s stellar reputation in that area. Costumes are bright and colorful and appropriate to the time, though you’d think as the star of the Wild West Show Frank Butler would wear more than a simple vest and plain boots, and that other characters like Charlie would be provided jackets that don’t look like 1970s’ polyester. 
     Quibbles aside, this is a strong and energetic show, with a stage full of voices that do justice to Berlin’s classic songs. The audience loved it, and since those opening night jitters are in the past, I’m sure you will, too. 
 
 
Director: Atticus Cooper Boidy. Music director: Sandy Melson Griese. Choreographer: Morgan Gingerich. Costumer: Victoria Scherini
 
Thru Oct. 21: FSa 8pm, Su 3pm, plus Sa Oct. 21 3pm; 2 hours 40 minutes with one intermission. $22 w/discounts, rsvp: www.2ndstarproductions.com.