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Annie Get Your Gun
Young Vic Theatre Autumn 2009

There can't be too many Broadway scores as full of great songs as Irving Berlin's 1946 classic - I could take up much of this review just listing the titles - 'No Business Like Show Business,' 'You Can't Get a Man With a Gun,' 'Doin' What Comes Natcherly,' and on and on. Anyone doing this show, from a Broadway producer to your children's school, would make it work.

And the score is the main reason for recommending this Young Vic production, which too often has the feel of the fringe or even community players about it. The stars are pretty good, but no better than that, and almost everyone and everything else has an OK-if-you're-in-a-charitable-mood quality and not much more.

Jane Horrocks is appropriately perky as sharpshooter Annie Oakley, who's in love with her rival Frank Butler (and that's the entire plot of the show right there), and she can belt out the songs originally written for the stentorian Ethel Merman. She sometimes relies a bit too much on the help of the sound engineer, but 'You Can't Get A Man' is great fun, and she's even better with the quieter songs like 'Lost In His Arms' and 'Moonshine Lullaby,' which she gives a nice retro-1940s feel to.

Julian Ovenden is more boyishly charming than overpoweringly macho as Frank, but it works, and he is by far the best singer onstage, making the most of 'The Girl That I Marry' and his other songs.

John Marquez brings some comic energy to the role of the hustling press agent, but I'm already running out of things to praise about the show.

For some reason director Richard Jones has updated the story from the 1880s to the 1940s, which makes some of it not make sense (Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull still alive, Annie trick-shooting with a machine gun), and seems designed solely to allow for a short mock newsreel sequence that clumsily Zeligs Jane Horrocks into footage of Churchill, DeGaulle, Hitler and others as Annie becomes a world sensation.

Most of the staging is simply clumsy, with the action frequently at one corner of the very wide and shallow stage, and people forced to climb over each other to move from one side to another. Philippe Giraudeau's choreography is shapeless and frequently ugly, contributing to the vaguely amateur feel of the whole thing.

And yet there are those songs, and they are great songs, and they can make you forgive any shortcomings.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Annie Get Your Gun - Young Vic 2009