OGDEN — Annie Get Your Gun is the quintessential classic American musical. Premiering in 1946, this show was written with Ethel Merman in mind, and it has had many revivals, movies, concerts, and local productions since that time. Many of the songs have become timeless classics, especially the arguably most famous ballad “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” The musical, with a script by Herbert Fields and Dorothy Fields and a score by Irving Berlin, is based on the life of Annie Oakley—a young lady with a talent for shooting—and her rise into show business and romance.
Terrace Plaza’s production of Annie Get Your Gun had some great set design and costuming. The stage area is actually quite small, which can limit the ability to make a set realistic. However, set designer Dennis Ferrin was able to build several scenes with artistry in the small details that made up for the small stage. I was also impressed by the costumes, which really helped the audience see the stark differences between some of the characters, such as the fanciness of Dolly Tate as compared to the back woods look of Annie and her family. Costumers Laura Jane Adams and Jim and Wedy Tatton did an excellent job of looking at how people would have dressed differently in each of the respective classes.
The ensemble of Annie Get Your Gun performed well, especially on some of the larger numbers such as the Indian ceremony. This is where the choreography of Bailee DeYoung and Laura Jane Adams shined. I was also quite impressed with the musical harmonies in several of the chorus songs. It was obvious that director and music director Charlene Adams had the cast focus on how to bring the harmonies together, and the result was a musical pleasing evening. Despite the overall strong performance, there were a few hiccups in the sound system and in some songs the cast members need to improve on keeping the pace with the prerecorded music track.
Annie Oakley’s four younger siblings were played by Luke Swensen, Aria Ferrin, Livy Alvey, and Cassity Whitby. Each of these young actors excelled at creating amusing facial expressions and entertaining stage business, perhaps best exhibited in the song “Moonshine Lullaby,” where they are all supposed to be going to sleep. I found myself amused by their subtle tactics in trying to remain awake against their sister’s orders.
Frank Butler was played by Shelby Ferrin, who has a strong voice and plenty of acting talent. However, he seemed almost too nice for the role of Frank Butler. His first song, entitled “I’m A Bad, Bad Man,” is a ballad to several ladies about how they should avoid him because he is not a good long-term romantic prospect. While all the notes were on pitch and the choreography entertaining, I found myself having a hard time believing this character could ever hurt anyone. As his character deepened throughout the show, Shelby Ferrin’s performance improved, culminating with the best song of the evening, the famous duet “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better” with Annie, played by Annie Ferrin. Indeed, when Frank and Annie were staring each other down, the song became one of the best staged duets I have seen in a long time.
The truth is, the rest of the show became secondary the moment Annie Ferrin took the stage. From her first scene, where she explains to the hotel proprietor that her siblings and she were simple backwoods people through the song “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly,” I could tell that this was a role that Annie Ferrin was meant to play. One of my favorite aspects of her performance was her facial expressions, which ranged from utter confusion to sheer delighted and unexpected enchantment with Frank. When she sang the number “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,” she was able to capture both the humor and the empathy needed to help the audience be interested in her plight to win the heart of the man that she can so easily upstage with her skills. The chemistry between her and Frank continued to build until the moment when the two contested who actually could do anything better than the other, leaving me with no doubt that Annie would likely win such a contest.
In short, given the costumes, the set, and the performances by the leads (and the kids), this production of Annie Get Your Gun is as sure a shot as its main character.