Nearly 70 years on from its Broadway debut Annie Get Your Gun rides into town bringing musical stalwart Jason Donovan back to Brum once more, this time with Norman Pace and Emma Williams in tow. Yeehaw!
You could argue that Annie Get Your Gun is the musical’s musical, spawning as it does two of the best known songs in musical theatre courtesy of There’s No Business Like Show Business and Anything You Can Do. That’s enough of a reason alone to see this show right? This new production makes the most of both numbers too, with no less than three outings for There’s No Business Like Show Business in Act One and a show stealing Anything You Can Do from Emma Williams in Act Two.
Being 70 years old and, of course, set in the late Victorian era it’s really got the feel of a good ol’ fashioned MGM musical and whilst the producers have perhaps added one or two lines (I can’t recall the one about ladies keeping their “flaps shut”...ahem...being in the original) its quaintness is actually pretty darn refreshin’. Emma Williams is simply wonderful as Oakely, capturing the youthfulness and tomboy charm of the character (the real life Annie Oakely was just 15 when she ‘shot’ to fame) and delivering the show’s standout moment during Anything I Can Do, achieving an impressively high and then lung bustingly loooooooooooooooong note that left Donovan no doubt longing for the more limited vocal talents of the lovely Ms Minogue. Williams sings, dances, looks a million dollars (when she glams up towards the end that is) and makes the whole thing look effortless. Surely one of the best stars of musical theatre around right now?
You’ve got to admire Jason too. In recent years he’s thrown himself into a wide variety of musical roles from Tick in Priscilla to Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show but perhaps his role as Frank Butler in this production suits him better. Sure the accent slips occasionally but his dancing’s improved and there’s no doubt that he draws in the crowds which is pretty ruddy essential. He shares some lovely moments with Emma too and has a neat comic touch seeming to revel in the more old school material. Speaking of comic touches Norman Pace (the one from Hale and Pace without a beard...but who now sports a rather fine example...if he ever reads this PLEASE don’t shave it off after the tour...it’s a magnificent specimen sir) was on fine form as Buffalo Bill. Certainly not the most obvious choice for the role but he was pretty convincing as the Victorian’s answer to Simon Cowell (minus the high waisted trousers and plastic surgery of course), playing off Butler against Oakely and generating a genial air of showmanship. Elsewhere Katie Marie-Carter was cute as a button as Nellie, not the biggest role in the show by any means but a delight whenever she was on stage.
There were a few neat tricks throughout the show too, notably the knife throwing routine. I’m sure it was simply done but it had me fooled. The lavish costumes (I’ve got to get myself a Buffalo Bill suede jacket) and simple but effective staging did a cracking job of transporting you from the (relatively) mild West Midlands to the Wild West too. Annie...or anyone else for that matter...get your ticket.
Annie Get Your Gun is on at the New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 5th July. Tickets here!