Annie Get Your Gun at Lavender Theatre
Annie Get Your Gun is the inaugural show at the new open air Lavender Theatre in Epsom. Annie Get Your Gun is a classic show that most musical theatre lovers have seen thanks to the film from the 1950’s but somehow it has passed me by so not only was I looking forward to checking out a new theatre but also finally seeing Annie Get Your Gun.
The show is loosely based on the life of sharp shooter Annie Oakley. She finds herself challenging Frank Butler to a shooting contest and when she beats him she joins Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. They soon fall for each other but refuse to give into their feelings. With music by one of musical theatres classic composers Irving Berlin and many of the numbers being used as stand alone songs in their own right it has developed into a classic piece of musical theatre.
The theatre is a perfect setting for this show. The set was kept simple, instead relying on the beautiful surroundings to do most of the talking. This also meant that the show kept a steady flow, using ladders and other props that you might expect to find at a Wild West show to form everything from a railway carriage to the lawn of a hotel and these set changes choreographed so that the audience were never taken away from the Wild West Show. The show also struck the right tone with the potentially offensive references to Indians removed and care taken around the portrayal of Chief Sitting Bull which helped the show sit much better with an audience in 2023 although the show cannot escape its misogynistic undertones despite some reworking.
The staging itself was well done although at times I did feel very distant from the action or even that some of the action was obscured from me by some of the set, a downside to having such a long stage and therefore audience compared to the depth of the auditorium.
Whilst the show may not be known to all, much of the music is, so expectations are high when refrains from ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business,’ or ‘Anything You Can Do’ began. We needn’t have worried. The energy for all of the numbers was sky high and the choreography by Simon Hardwick (who also directed it) was in keeping with the overall feel of the show. The 7 piece orchestra lead by Debbi Clarke also sounded wonderfully full, situated behind the stage in their own tent with credit to Max Alexander-Taylor, the sound number one and Richard Carter, the production sound engineer for a very well balanced show, no easy task in an open air venue.
The title role was played by SuRie who was wonderful in the role, she played the role very naturally and stuck the balance well between a woman keen to win the love of her man who struggles with her star power versus a woman who knows her ability and refuses to hide her talents to please a man. Her interpretation oozed gumption and I adored her reactions to many of the misogynistic remarks made by Frank Butler. Her voice also suited the role, with the ability to belt out a big number yet also retain a more classical legit sound to her voice when needed.
Playing opposite her was Charlie McCullagh as Frank Butler. His chemistry with SuRie was spot on and it was easy to see why Annie would fall for Frank so hard, with McCullagh’s commanding presence and his strong vocals which I would happily listen to for days.
The rest of the cast all played their parts well. Nina Bell and Joseph Vella played the young lovers Winnie Tate and Tommy Keeler and had a youthful exuberance about them and danced beautifully together whilst Chloe Hart as Dolly Tate had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand with her comedic ability.
Annie Get Your Gun at Lavender Theatre is a wonderful chance to see this classic musical in a beautiful setting performed by a talented cast and orchestra.
Annie Get Your Gun is on at Lavender Theatre until 5th August. To find out more about Annie Get Your Gun visit their website here.