Annabel Cartwright reviews the revived Annie Get Your Gun at The Palace Theatre
The Old West lives on in central Manchester! Irving Berlin’s most popular musical, Annie Get Your Gun, has been brought back to sparkling life at the Opera House. Starring musical theatre legend Jason Donovan as Frank Butler, Ian Talbot’s revival of the American classic does not disappoint.
As a result of a chance entry in a shoot-off against marksman extraordinaire, Frank Butler, Annie Oakley (Emma Williams) is launched from her simple life of just Doin’ What Comes Naturally, into the glitz and glamour of show business. As a member of Buffalo Bill’s travelling troupe of performers, Annie tours Europe, displaying her extraordinary shooting skills to high acclaim. Along the way, she finds herself growing closer to her sharpshooting colleague, Frank. As Annie struggles to find a way to balance the love she has for her work and her feelings for Frank, she must make some difficult decisions. Is there a way she can have both of the things she loves most in her life, simultaneously?
Talbot’s revival of this musical theatre gem combines all the spirit of the Wild West and the cheese of 1940s Broadway. While a more-or-less traditional approach has been taken to staging this performance, the set design by Paul Farnsworth and the costume design by Karen Large nevertheless create visual magic on stage. The big-top style backdrop provides the perfect canvas upon which to present dazzling scenes of show business in all its glitz and glamour.
No matter how many times it has closed and been revived, the charm and humour that underlies every scene of Annie Get Your Gun remains strong, as made evident by the powerful audience reaction following each and every witty one-liner. The charm of Emma Williams, however comes out on top in this production. Her cheeky grin and truly stunning vocals have the power to win over the audience’s hearts from the initial rise of the curtain, to the very final bow. High praise must also be extended to the ensemble of Annie Get Your Gun. The impressive dances choreographed by Lizzi Gee are performed with flair, and the music sung with true feeling.
The only (minor) flaw to be found in the production is the unfortunate miscasting of Jason Donovan. Alongside Williams, Donovan’s performance comes across as a little lacklustre. He appears to struggle vocally and his delivery is overly kitsch. It is vastly clear that anything Donovan can do, Williams can do better.
On the whole, Annie Get Your Gun provides a highly enjoyable evening of fun. Although some of the content, and perhaps one actor, can be viewed as being a little outdated, Talbot’s cast succeed in bringing an abundance of life into an old masterpiece.
5 out of 5 stars