Annie Get Your Gun

Date 26th May 2017
Society Petersfield Theatre Group
Venue Festival Hall, Petersfield
Type of Production Musical
Director Roger Wettone
Musical Director Philip Young
Choreographer Emma Twist


Author: Mark Donalds

Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun is a wonderful feel-good show – a fictionalised version of the life of sharpshooter Annie Oakley, who starred in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, and her on-off romance with fellow sharpshooter Frank Butler. It was a big hit when it opened on Broadway in 1946 and has been revived many times since, not just on the stage but on film and television, and many of its songs have become well known favourites.

When the curtain opened, the quality of the big-top set immediately impressed. Later additions of trucks and flats, smoothly brought on by the cast, only added to the impression that this is a company with high production values. The quality of construction and painting was top class - all done in-house, amazing!

Also top class was the cast. Suzie Dove was totally convincing as Annie Oakley, giving an accomplished performance with loads of energy – one moment the mother hen, looking after her younger siblings, the next a gawky love-struck teenager overawed by the handsome Frank Butler, until the shoot-off brought out her competitive side. Her clear and tuneful voice soared and swooped in all her numbers, a real joy to listen to. She was equalled in talent by Elliott Port as Frank Butler. He also inhabited his character and with his rich, mellow voice and good looks, it was easy to understand why all the ladies fell for him. Both sang faultlessly in their solos and duets and acted convincingly, sparking off each other. Their duet “Anything You Can Do” was a particular joy.

Although Frank and Annie had the majority of the musical numbers, they were well supported by the other principals and the strong chorus. Joanne Stephenson was a beautifully spiteful and flamboyant Dolly Tate – Annie’s jealous rival as Frank’s assistant – and Simon Stanley gave us a forthright and frustrated show manager, Charlie Davenport. Emma Read and Joe Dove were well matched as Dolly’s younger sister Winnie and her fiancé Tommy Keeler, and Tim Coyte was suitably commanding and impassive as Chief Sitting Bull. The children excelled too: Georgie Gardner-Cliff as Jessie, Bethany Hickey as Nellie and particularly Max Merricks as the cheeky Jake – he had amazing stage presence for one so young.

The big showpiece numbers allowed the company to demonstrate their excellent choral singing and spot-on execution of Emma Twist’s imaginative choreography, which were enhanced no end by the colourful and authentic-looking costumes. Top marks to the wardrobe team for achieving such a spectacular look. Top marks too for the lighting and sound teams (helped by the Green ‘A’ Team) – I loved the lighting effect used for Annie riding a motorbike - and the sound throughout was crystal clear. The ten-piece orchestra, under Philip Young’s experienced baton produced a good sound, always accompanying and rarely overwhelming the singers.

I thoroughly enjoyed my introduction to the Petersfield Theatre Group – the high standards achieved in all aspects of this production are a tribute to director Roger Wettone and this talented company, and would not look out of place on a professional stage.