Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 13, 2010

Annie Get Your Gun

The Goodspeed, East Haddam, CT
through July 3, 2010
by R.E. Smith

Truly the Goodspeed must have magical powers. How else is there to explain the method by which the venerable theatre can fit all the energy of a big top, Wild West show into its compact space? But then it is the vivid characters and intimate songs that really fill the stage in the classic "Annie Get Your Gun," a loosely based account of the life of sharpshooter Annie Oakley.

The list of immortal Irving Berlin songs comprising the score starts with "There's No Business Like Show Business" and proceeds, non-stop, to "Anything You Can Do". Every song is extremely well served by the talent. Jenn Gambatese, late of Broadway's Tarzan, brings a clear, pure voice to rough and tumble, sweet and innocent Annie. She effortlessly switches from steely-sharp marksmen to moon-eyed infatuation at the drop of a clay pigeon. Kevin Earley, as Annie's rival/romantic interest Frank Butler, has an easy charm and precise comic delivery. Earley's tremendous, classic, singing voice causes delighted nods of approval every time he starts a number.

Andrew Cao and Chelsea Morgan Stock as romantic ingénues Tommy and Winnie make a delightful, winning couple (SEE PHOTO). Cao has a physical presence, winning smile and boundless energy that make him a delight to watch, even in the background. Stock was spunky, determined and light on her feet. Their energetic song and dance "I'll Share It All With You," choreographed atop a train car, is an Act I highlight.

Working from the Peter Stone update of the original Herbert and Dorothy Fields script, the show features not only timeless songs, but also witty banter and sharp dialogue. Director Rob Ruggiero's pacing is intelligent and quick, and the staging features delightful techniques to illustrate Annie's sharpshooting skills.

From the moment the audience walks into the theatre and is greeted by the authentic set, taking one inside the tent of the Buffalo Bill's show, it is clear that everyone is in for a delightful evening of musical theatre without a single false note.