Annie Get Your Gun
Music & Lyrics by: Irving Berlin
Distributed by: Masterworks Broadway
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
In 1945, following the success of Oklahoma! and Carousel, the duo of Rogers and Hammerstein set about looking for someone to write the music and lyrics for a brand new project. Suggested by friend Dorothy Fields, the duo wanted to produce a new musical based on the life of Annie Oakley, the famous Wild West sharpshooter. When they first approached Irving Berlin to create the music and lyrics for Annie Get Your Gun, he balked, but after much coaxing, he finally read the script and immediately came up with the first of three songs that would sum up the entire experience.
Masterworks Broadway has recently released the eco-friendly packaged version of the 1966 Music Theater of Lincoln Center 20th anniversary stage revival of Annie Get Your Gun. Having dressed as Annie Oakley one Halloween, thinking she was just about the coolest cowgirl in the Wild West when I was a kid, I couldnít wait to check this one out.
This presentation of Annie Get Your Gun stars Ethel Merman as Annie Oakley, a young sharpshooter who has just been discovered by Colonel Buffalo Bill (Rufus Smith) and asked to become a part of his famous Wild West Show. It is there that she meets the dashing Frank Butler (Bruce Yarnell), the star of the show and hero to all the local girls. NaÔve and somewhat inadept at love, Annie sets out to capture Frankís heart by impressing him, performing fantastic shooting stunts ostensively to win his heart. However, by becoming the star of the Wild West Show, she inadvertently drives Frank away. Can she somehow manage to remain the star of the show and win Frankís heart over at the same time?
For someone who didnít want to work on this project and had to be prodded and cajoled, Irving Berlin produced some rather funny and enjoyable songs. Everyone knows Thereís No Business Like Show Business and Anything You Can Do as they have been re-enacted many times on stage, in film and on television. However, my favorite songs are Doiní What Comes Naturílly and You Canít Get a Man With a Gun. The first is a country bumpkinís look at how to succeed in life and offers up some hysterical situations to prove that you can be very successful if you stick to doing what comes naturally. The second song shows us Annieís frustration at being so talented at shooting, but realizing that all this talent counts for nothing when you are trying to win a manís heart.
While I enjoyed the music and the lyrics of Annie Get Your Gun, I just couldnít get used to Ethel Mermanís singing. Not to say that I donít like her singing - who couldnít love the powerful voice that Ethel Merman brings to the stage. However, it was her attempt to pull off a southern drawl with that powerful voice that somewhat fell short for me. More suited for songs like I Got Rhythm, Everythingís Coming Up Roses and Anything Goes, I felt Mermanís singing style was simply out of place here.
If you can overlook the fake drawl of Merman in this show, then the Music Theater of Lincoln Center version of Annie Get Your Gun is truly a funny and enjoyable soundtrack that anyone who loves theater will enjoy.