×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Annie Get Your Gun

Marilu Henner's very appealing Annie Oakley will pleasantly surprise presenters who campaigned hard but unsuccessfully for the starry sass of Bernadette Peters' original gun-totin' hillbilly.

With:
Frank Butler - Rex Smith
Charlie Davenport - Joe Hart
Buffalo Bill - George McDaniel
Dolly Tate - Susann Fletcher
Tommy Keeler - Eric Sciotto
Winnie Tate - Claci Miller
Foster Wilson - Charles Goff
Annie Oakley - Marilu Henner
Jessie Oakley - Ainsley Binnicker
Neillie Oakley - Gracie Winchester
Little Jake - Mitchel Federan
Chief Sitting Bull - Larry Storch

Marilu Henner’s very appealing Annie Oakley will pleasantly surprise presenters who campaigned hard but unsuccessfully for the starry sass of Bernadette Peters’ original gun-totin’ hillbilly. With Rex Smith’s Frank Butler substituting youth and exuberance for Tom Wopat’s laid-back drawl, the Weisslers’ engaging new pair of toppers have enough energy and talent to make this touring “Annie” one of the bigger grossers of the new road season. The energy of the talent and the freshness of Jeff Calhoun’s direction overcomes the diminishment of Tony Walton’s tented setting, here a pale shadow of the original.

Calhoun, who is given full directing and choreography credit for the tour (Graciele Daniele helmed the Broadway original), has trimmed the show considerably. Two numbers are excised entirely and they are not missed. Instead of act two opener “The European Tour” (a dull affair), the show now cuts straight to the effective “Lost in His Arms.” Gone from the first act is the juvenile number “I’ll Share It all With You,” cute but cloying.

The result is about 15 minutes shaved off the running time and a show with a rather more contemporary and personal structure, although the Tommy/Winny and Charlie/Dolly subplots command so much less attention here that they seem like afterthoughts in the last five minutes of the show. Still, hinterlanders will be showing up to see Annie and Frank battle it out in a show well matched to cities like Dallas (especially given the current popular upswing of Texas family values). Folks will likely be happy with their purchase.

As she proved in “Chicago,” Henner is an accomplished hoofer, and Calhoun makes expanded use of her physical chops, especially in the second act. More important, though, Henner manages to turn Oakley into a character with a palpable and empathetic emotional arc. There’s also a very pleasing strength to her work — this Annie’s dedication to her skill comes through more strongly than her love for Frank, which is a nice reversal of the way the role is often played. Henner is unafraid to turn Annie into a genuine lout in the early stages of the show, which makes her growth all the more interesting.

Both Henner and the charming Smith give the music a more contemporary, pop veneer than their Broadway counterparts, but the upside of that approach is more naturalistic characterizations. And since this un-p.c. show needs all the help it can muster in that regard, the tour feels fresher and less strained than this show did in its original incarnation.

There are no obvious weak links in the uniformly strong supporting cast — which is slightly smaller and younger than the Broadway company but still more than adequate. Larry Storch is especially funny as Sitting Bull — he avoids the potential stereotyping by creating a winking character who is the classic Broadway noble savage. The choice frees the audience to laugh at the gags.

As is their custom, the Weisslers have obviously concentrated on keeping the physical production easy to move and inexpensive. Presenters should be wary of billing this show on its scenic merits — it is probably now closer to “Chicago” than its Broadway sibling. In Dallas, at least, the orchestra was thinner than Irving Berlin deserves at this level. The choreography also suffers from a lack of stage depth. The show was using only a small portion of the Music Fair’s huge stage.

Still, one could reasonably argue that Walton’s original set was so expansive that it messed up Peter Stone’s frame for the show, which depended on the notion that Buffalo Bill was staging the whole thing himself. With this production’s limited backdrops and set pieces — and honest, big-hearted performances — no such suspension of disbelief is required.

Annie Get Your Gun

Music Fair Theater, Dallas; 3,420 seats; $55 top

Production: A Barry and Fran Weissler presentation, in association with Kardana/Swinsky Prods., Michael Watt and Hal Luftig, of a musical in two acts with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields, revised by Peter Stone. Directed and choreographed by Jeff Calhoun.

Creative: Sets, Tony Walton; lighting, Beverly Emmons; costumes, William Ivey Long; sound, G. Thomas Clark; musical director, Marvin Laird; orchestrations, Bruce Coughlin; production stage manager, James Harker. Opened July 24, 2000. Reviewed Aug. 5. Running time: 2 HOURS, 30 MIN.

Cast: Frank Butler - Rex Smith
Charlie Davenport - Joe Hart
Buffalo Bill - George McDaniel
Dolly Tate - Susann Fletcher
Tommy Keeler - Eric Sciotto
Winnie Tate - Claci Miller
Foster Wilson - Charles Goff
Annie Oakley - Marilu Henner
Jessie Oakley - Ainsley Binnicker
Neillie Oakley - Gracie Winchester
Little Jake - Mitchel Federan
Chief Sitting Bull - Larry Storch
With: Paul Canaan, Celina Carvajal, Keith Fortner, Sean Haythe, Andrew Hussmann, Naomi Kakuk, Ron Kidd, Shane Kirkpatrick, Joelle Letta, Brian J. Marcum, Jennifer Marcum, Catherine Marsh, Sean Michael McKnight, Carolyn Ockert, Lisa Marie Panagos, Debra Walton, James R. Whittington, Tony Yazbeck.

More Legit

  • 'Black Super Hero Magic Mama' Review

    L.A. Theater Review: 'Black Super Hero Magic Mama'

    What function do superhero stories play in American society? Are they merely escapist distractions for head-in-the-clouds teens, or could those same formats actually serve a practical function, providing useful tools for everyday life? Recognizing these comic book fantasies as by far the dominant form of contemporary mythmaking for a generation of young people, emerging playwright [...]

  • Danielle Brooks'Ain't Too Proud - The

    How 'Orange Is the New Black' Star Danielle Brooks Became a Broadway Producer

    Danielle Brooks earned a Tony nomination when she made her Broadway debut as Sofia in the 2015 revival of “The Color Purple,” but now the “Orange Is the New Black” star is working behind the scenes as a producer on the new jukebox musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.” “I [...]

  • Ain't Too Proud review

    Broadway Review: 'Ain't Too Proud'

    In the wake of the long-running “Jersey Boys” and the short-lived “Summer,” director Des McAnuff is back on Broadway with another show built around the song catalog of a music act — and although “Ain’t Too Proud” has all the right sounds and slick moves, this bio-musical of the R&B vocal group the Temptations is [...]

  • 'White Noise' Theater Review: Suzan-Lori Parks

    Off Broadway Review: Daveed Diggs in 'White Noise'

    Any new play by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (“Topdog / Underdog”) demands — and deserves — attention. And in its premiere production at the Public Theater, her latest, “White Noise,” opens with a burst of brainy energy that lasts through the first act. But it takes a nosedive in the sloppy second half, [...]

  • Alexander Dinelaris

    'Jekyll and Hyde' Movie in the Works Based on Broadway Musical

    The Broadway musical “Jekyll and Hyde” is getting the movie treatment from Academy Award winner Alexander Dinelaris. Dinelaris, who is writing and producing the adaptation, won an Oscar for the “Birdman” script and was a co-producer on “The Revenant.” He is producing “Jekyll and Hyde” as the first project under his New York-based development company, [...]

  • Sam Mendes

    Listen: The 'Balls-Out Theatricality' of Sam Mendes

    If you find yourself directing a Broadway play with a cast so big it includes a goose, two rabbits, more kids than you can count and an actual infant, what do you do? If you’re Sam Mendes, you embrace the “balls-out theatricality” of it all. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “There is a kind [...]

  • James Corden Tony Awards

    James Corden to Host 2019 Tony Awards (EXCLUSIVE)

    James Corden has been tapped to once again host the Tony Awards, Variety has learned exclusively. “The Late Late Show” host previously emceed the annual theater awards show in 2016, and won the Tony for best actor in a play for his performance in “One Man, Two Guvnors” in 2012. “I’m thrilled to be returning to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content