The Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities has fired off its second show of the 2007 season, “Annie Get Your Gun,” and has hit the bull's-eye.
The show is loaded with big voices, high-kicking cowboy boots and, of course, Irving Berlin's memorable lyrics and melodies. The old Broadway war horse's book, originally written by Herbert and Dorothy Fields, has been revised and revamped by Peter Stone to dust off the prairie dust from some of the more dated and implausible aspects of the 1946 plot.
Stone structures a show within a show by incorporating vaudevillian-style scene changes - complete with barker - and rephrased dialogue to clarify that postwar derisive and derogatory turn of phrase or witty barb that was fashionable at the time. Through Stone's restructuring of the high and low comedy aspects of the musical, the show tends to dovetail with the more sentimental scenes and songs.
Director and choreographer Jon Engstrom keys in on these textual aspects with seamless transitions and a well-timed build to accentuate the inherent big finish; he tightly holds the reins during the first act of the show and than lets his ponies run free toward the home stretch. Engstrom's show hits full stride when it counts the most. The director highlights Berlin's most memorable music with care. “There's no Business Like Show Business,” “You Can't get a man With a Gun,” “I Got the sun in the Morning” and “Anything you can Do” really played on the audience's heartstrings during the Sunday matinee. What are great songs if one does not have talented voices to sing them? Misty Cotton (Annie Oakley) and Kevin Bailey's (Frank Butler) powerful voices and dynamic chemistry really give “Annie Get Your Gun” wings. Both actors make these canonized roles their very own; it is almost as if these roles were written for the two performers. Cotton and Bailey find those simple sentimental moments in the text that transcend the written word. Both performers masterfully walk the tightrope between comedy and sentimentality, which makes Oakley and Butler's love and their mutual respect seem that more real. Engstrom has cast his supporting roles and ensemble as expertly as his principals; the cast is deep and well-rounded. The CLOSBC production team spared no cost for all the amenities of a Wild West show, with the exception of barrel racing and bull riding. Musical director Dennis Castellano and his men and women in the pit play Berlin's music with force and passion. “Annie Get Your Gun” is a big piece of American theater pie, so go down to the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center and get a slice, Heehaw!