Annie Get Your Gun
Music, Lyrics By Irving Berlin. Original Book By Herbert and Dorothy Fields, as revised by Peter Stone. Directed By Nina Stevenson.
Queanbeyan Players Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre.
November 1-16 Tickets $25-$40 Bookings: theq.net.au Or 6285 6290.
The story goes that when someone called the 1946 musical Annie Get Your Gun ''old-fashioned'', its songwriter, Irving Berlin, retorted, ''Yes, an old-fashioned smash.''
And he was right. In an era when the more complex Rodgers and Hammerstein ''musical plays'' such as Carousel had come into fashion, the purely entertaining musical comedy Annie get Your Gun was a big success.
It had long first runs on Broadway and in the West End, several hit songs, a film, numerous recordings, and many overseas productions and revivals as well as countless amateur performances. And some of its numbers, especially There's No Business Like Show Business and Anything You Can Do, are familiar to people even if they don't know the source.
But that anonymous critic might have had a point. In Queanbeyan Players' production, director Nina Stevenson has taken note of changing times and sensibilities regarding race and equality of the sexes.
''We're doing the 1999 revised version for several reasons,'' she says.
''It's more politically correct, a show within a show. This was to escape having to portray realism in it.''
There's No Business Like Show Business opens the show in this version, which omits a couple of songs (I'm An Indian Too and Colonel Buffalo Bill) but includes the secondary couple Tommy (Greg Sollis) and Winnie (Sophie Hopkins) and their numbers I'll Share It All With You and Who Do You Love I Hope - as well as the leads' duet An Old-Fashioned Wedding, written for the 1966 Broadway revival.
Annie Get Your Gun is based on the real-life story of Annie Oakley and Frank Butler, sharpshooting rivals with the touring show Buffalo Bill's Wild West who fell in love. They married in 1875 and when she died in 1926, he stopped eating and died of starvation 18 days later.
But, says Stevenson, ''the show isn't just about love''.
The feisty Annie and the proud, womanising Frank both need to make some adjustments if their relationship is going to work.
Anita Davenport is playing Annie, the role introduced by Broadway star Ethel Merman, whose stamina and ability to belt were legendary.
''There are only four songs in the show I don't sing - I have 14 songs,'' Davenport says.
''It's a big sing but a fun sing.''
She says to play Annie ''you've got to be the quintessential terrible tomboy''. She's worked hard to find the humour in the role - which isn't too hard, as Annie and Frank are constantly butting heads. And Annie is transformed through the show from a ''woodsy little ragamuffin to a splendid society lady - she sort of pulls it off''.
An actor in Canberra since 1993, Davenport had seen Queanbeyan Players' previous production of Annie in the late 1990s but Richard Block wasn't familiar with the show at all before auditioning, though he did recognise a couple of the songs.
''My favourite number is My Defences Are Down, a big male ensemble number. It's rare to see guys dancing it up on stage.''
It's Block's most challenging role to date and his first lead role after several ensemble parts. He came late to community musical theatre, starting in Kiss Me Kate in 2006 when he was 31 having been put off by a bad experience in year 11: he was awkward and shy, didn't know how to project. and his lines cut.
''It took me 15 years to work up the courage again to do something.''
That's almost as long as Sophie Hopkins has been alive. The 17-year-old plays Winnie and this is her first show outside school.
''It's more intense - everyone's working,'' she says.
Sollis, who plays her easygoing love interest, has done 10 shows in the last four years including Les Miserables and I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change.
Trying to thwart the young couple is Winnie's sister overbearing Dolly Tate, played by Fiona Hale. She directed the previous Queanbeyan Players production in 1998 using the 1966 script and says that, whatever the version, the chief appeal of Annie Get Your Gun for her is the music.
''I love all the songs,'' she says.