Annie Get Your Gun
At the Palace, Irving Berlin's ode to showmanship is a tribute to community theatre at its best
Reviewed by Robert Faires, Fri., July 20, 2012
Palace Theatre, 810 S. Austin Ave., Georgetown, 512/869-7469
Through July 29
Running time: 2 hr., 25 min.
If you've ever stood before the footlights, ever been on the receiving end of an audience's gaze, ever taken a bow to a crowd's applause, then perhaps you'll comprehend why I was so affected by the opening of the Palace Theatre's production of Annie Get Your Gun. The electric charge that comes from standing in the light and making believe for all those watchers in the dark was evident on every one of the 43 faces across that stage. The sight of so many people radiating that singular joy – as Irving Berlin put it in the song they belted out together: "Nowhere could you get that happy feeling when you are stealing an extra bow" – was itself a joy, but it was enriched and magnified by the fact that the people there had come from all walks of life – students, teachers, homemakers, businesspeople, administrators, ministers – to share in this production's creation, and had done so from a pure love of the art, This was community theatre in the term's highest and best sense, and that moved me.
A love of showmanship is, of course, built into Berlin's 1946 Broadway hit. The business that it boasts there's no business like provides the setting and fuels the plot, with Buffalo Bill Cody – that sly hustler who packaged the American West into a rootin'-tootin', ridin'-'n'-shootin' extravaganza – recruiting hayseed sharpshooter Annie Oakley to join his touring Wild West spectacular, a move that takes dead aim at the ego of the show's star marksman, Frank Butler. Annie and Frank jostle for the spotlight, as well as the title of World's Best Shot, even as they lose their hearts to each other. Almost every scene in Herbert and Dorothy Fields' book (revised by Peter Stone) offers some commentary on the allure of the stage and the life that goes with it, even with all its endless travels and travails, financial woes, and puffed-up egos. As our deadeye heroine soon learns, once the curtain rises, all the tribulations and calamities melt away, and you feel more alive onstage than anywhere else.
That lesson is easily gleaned from Patty Rowell, who plays Annie Oakley here. Every second she's in the light, this Palace Theatre star beams somethin' fierce, as if she can outshine any bulb turned her way the same way Annie can out-shoot, out-speak, and out-sing Frank. Rowell's program bio boasts some of the biggest female leads in musical theatre – Marian the librarian, Sister Sarah Brown, Dorothy Gale, Reno Sweeney – but her joyful countenance will convince you that this is the role she's been waiting her whole life to play and to get it back you'll have to pry it from her cold, dead fingers. She gives her Annie spunk to spare, cocksurely facing down Frank – an appealing, if somewhat subdued, Phil Rodriguez – even though she only comes up to his clavicle. And her voice, perched somewhere between Mary Martin and Reba McEntire, finds all the Broadway beauty in Annie's numbers while adding a welcome seasoning of Nashville.
Rowell makes the most of her role but not at the expense of her fellow cast members. This is no diva turn. Her delight feels of a piece with theirs, the elation they all get from treading the boards. That such a uniform feeling comes through from everyone is a tribute to Palace Associate Artistic Director Ron Watson, who staged the production, with music director Justin Langford and choreographer Jesee Smart. Through their example, we have the chance to see how it takes a village to mount a show. And you know, I wouldn't trade it for a sack of gold.
Fri., Dec. 31, 2004
Robert Faires, Fri., May 17, 2013
Matthew Irwin, Fri., May 17, 2013
Jonelle Seitz, Fri., May 17, 2013
Matthew Irwin, Fri., May 10, 2013
Elizabeth Cobbe, Fri., May 10, 2013
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