by Patrick B. McGuigan
In this month’s Summerstock production of “Annie Get Your Gun,” continuing through Sunday (July 24) the wonderful musical comedy with an assortment of Irving Berlin’s best music and lyrics, Renee Anderson is tender and tough, ardent and amorous.
Her delivery and manner of character interpretation, in moving from illiterate country girl and sharpshooter to world traveler and performer, is a highlight of the show. Summerstock is an Edmond-based group that pulls primarily but not exclusively from the University of Central Oklahoma and north Oklahoma City area for its crew and cast.
Annie’s love interest is Frank Butler, portrayed nicely by Dallas Lish. Their unabashedly romantic story is told in the loosely-based-on-fact trials and tribulations of traveling troupes of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, the Wild West Show of Williams S. Cody (Buffalo Bill) and Oklahoma’s own Pawnee Bill.
The story soars in presentation of several Berlin classics, including “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly,” “The Girl That I Marry,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “They Say It’s Wonderful,” “I Got the Sun in the Morning,” “An Old Fashioned Wedding,” “I’ll Share it All With You,” “The Girl that I Marry,” “Anything You Can Do,” and of course, the show-stopper, “You Can’t Get a Man With A Gun.”
An unlikely romance between the cruel (and, it seems, sexually frustrated) Dolly Tate (Kassie Carroll) and show manager Charlie Davenport (Trevor Mastin) is perhaps the best sub-plot of this story. Carroll goes “over the top” in the final scenes, and yet it works. In a reprise of “Who do You Love, I Hope,” the audience actually turns from loathing the middle age woman to joy at her budding love for a clearly nervous (and enthralled) fellow.
Some will no doubt object to the portrayal of Chief Sitting Bull, but in the capable hands of performer Paul James the aging warrior is both funny and, in a nice turn, tender in treatment of Annie, who becomes his adopted daughter. “S.B.” as the other characters eventually dub him provides both comic relief and apt cultural commentary. The latter includes jabs at “Indian Territory” (that’s us, folks) and federal government promises.
Among the more challenging character interpretations is Chris Cowan’s deft presentation of Tommy Keeler, the “half-Indian” lad who falls deeply in love with Lauren Nichols’ Winnie Tate. In writer Peter Stone’s reinterpretation of the story, the love between the pair comes across nicely with a sub-text of historic bigotry manifested in Dolly’s treatment of their romance and attempted elopement. This part of the story is aided immensely by the stellar singing of both, and the strong performance of Nichols.
Important supporting performances came from Terry Attebery as Buffalo Bill and Shawn Hicks as Pawnee Bill. Attebery’s character provided the narrative opening and closing of the show.
Annie’s dear siblings, the quartet she raised after the death of her parents, are Ethan Carr (Little Jake), Georgia Davies and Chelsea Yeager (Nellie), Audrey Payne and Cassie Schaefer (Jessie), and (as Minnie) Lulu Burnett and Ellie Howell.
The affable Porter Trio (in a train scene) is comprised of Paul Mitchell, Mathew Morals and Christian Ross. They are priceless in a short scene with Anderson and the the four children, singing “Moonshine Lullaby.”
A superior ensemble of dancers, singers and other performers includes the trio along with Reba Baker, Alex Bolerjack, Phoebe Butts, Caleb Dickenson, Elizabeth Dragoo, Danielle Fisher, Tony Flores, Clint Gilbert, Trinity Goodwin, Erin Heatley, Wes Horton, Camryn McPherson, Taylor Munholland, Taylor Radke, Ben Rodriguez, Haley Schaefer, Hope Schafer, Heidi Sue Wallace and Nicholas Winterrowd.
The direction of Shannon Hurleign and scenic/lighting design of Christopher Domanski is well conceived, from the book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields (and Stone’s revisions). Marianne Searle is music director and nicely guided the 13-member “Cowboy Band” that provides quality accompaniment. Corey Martin’s costumes and the rest of the technical work is solid.
Summerstock’s performance takes place at the historic Mitchell Hall Theater on the University of Central Oklahoma campus, and includes students from every local college campus, as well as Classen SAS, Heritage Hall and other high schools in Oklahoma City.