AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by Herbert & Dorothy Fields
Revised Book by Peter Stone
Directed by Jay Manley
Presented by Foothill Music Theatre
Smithwick Theatre
Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road
Los Altos Hills, CA / (650) 949-7360

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Thanks to memorable songs by Irving Berlin (both music and lyrics), "Annie Get Your Gun" retains much of its original luster. However, the book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields is becoming dated, even in Peter Stone's 1999 revision, the one being used by Foothill Music Theatre. In notes to the press, director Jay Manley says the original 1946 book had become too offensive in its depiction of Native Americans. Stone's revision solves that political correctness problem, but the book still comes across as a bit corny.

Based on a true story and set in the late 1880s, "Annie Get Your Gun" depicts the rocky romance between Annie Oakley (Jessica Raaum), an uneducated but sharpshooting young backwoods woman, and Frank Butler (Byron Westlund), world champion sharpshooter and star of Buffalo Bill Cody's (John Musgrave) Wild West Show. She immediately falls in love with him, but he's threatened by her shooting ability and initially put off by her lack of refinement. He describes his preferences in "The Girl That I Marry." Of course there's a happy ending after several trials and tribulations.

Although Foothill Music Theatre uses college and community performers, Manley directs them so skillfully that even the most minor characters are actively involved. Many of them also are terrific dancers who display their skills in Tyler Risk's choreography. The standout among them is the athletic Ted Zervoulakos as Tommy Keeler, the half-Indian, half-Irish knife thrower in Buffalo Bill's show. And as overseen by musical director Catherine Snider, most of the singing is good, but none of it is outstanding.

lighting by Kurt Landisman and costumes by Janis Bergmann. However, sound designers Scott Murray and Liz Delong overmike some of the singers, a problem that works against the perky Raaum, who otherwise does well with the songs made famous by Ethel Merman without trying to imitate her. Such songs, sung alone or with others, include "There's No Business Like Show Business," "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun," "They Say It's Wonderful," "I Got the Sun in the Morning" and "Anything You Can Do."

The ensemble as a whole doesn't have the acting skills to overcome flaws in the book or to maintain a snappy pace in some of the talkier scenes. The actors are earnest, but some overact, and the accents seem forced. Nevertheless, it's a creditable effort that makes for a generally enjoyable evening of musical theater.

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