AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Original book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields
Revised by Peter Stone
Directed by Alex Perez
Presented by Broadway By the Bay
San Mateo Performing Arts Center
600 N. Delaware St., San Mateo / (650) 579-5565

Reviewed by Judy Richter

It's almost old enough to qualify for Social Security, but "Annie Get Your Gun" still seems fresh, especially in the production by Broadway By the Bay. With music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and a book by siblings Herbert and Dorothy Fields, "Annie" was seen as a vehicle for Ethel Merman, who played legendary sharpshooter Annie Oakley in the original 1946 Broadway production. Over the years, the story became a bit creaky, but Peter Stone's revision for the 1999 revival starring Bernadette Peters brought it closer to modern sensibilities.

The songs, however, are ageless -- gems like the anthem "There's No Business Like Show Business," plus "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly," "The Girl That I Marry," "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun," "They Say It's Wonderful," "Anything You Can Do" and "I Got the Sun in the Morning." Stone's revision, being used for this BBB production, drops the politically incorrect "I'm an Indian, Too" and makes the musical a show within a show orchestrated by Buffalo Bill Cody (John Musgrave). The BBB opening also uses twins Khail and Nik Duggan as roustabouts. They're the sons of John Duggan, who lends dignity to the role of Chief Sitting Bull.

The real stars of this show, however, are Equity guest artists David Sattler as Frank Butler and Virginia Wilcox as Annie Oakley. Both know exactly how to deliver a song, and both have charismatic stage presence, especially the vivacious Wilcox. They also have good chemistry for their characters' love story.

Supporting players also are noteworthy, especially Musgrave; John Duggan; Cameron Weston as Charlie Davenport, manager of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show; Dominique Bonino as Winnie Tate, part of the show; and Don Cima as Foster Wilson, a hotel manager, and as Pawnee Bill, owner of a rival western-themed show. Amy Nielson does well in the villainous role of Dolly Tate, Winnie's older sister and Frank's assistant, but she's overmiked, making her too shrill at times.

Young people, some probably high school students, dominate the ensemble. Their dancing isn't quite as crisp or inventive as BBB audiences have come to expect when resident choreographer Berle Davis choreographs a show, but this time his associate, Jayne Zaban, is in charge of the dancers. Director Alex Perez keeps the action focused and moving, thanks in part to the set from nearby Foothill Music Theatre, which staged the show last summer. The colorful costumes come from The Theatre Company. The lighting is by Michael Ramsaur and Chad Bonaker, the sound by Bill Carrico. Musical director Mark Hanson has trained the singers well, but the orchestra, especially the trumpets, sounded ragged at times. Nevertheless, the show is terrific, especially with Sattler and Wilcox as the leads.

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