OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: 'Annie Get Your Gun' hits mark in Evanston staging

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-12-23T00:05:00Z OFFBEAT: 'Annie Get Your Gun' hits mark in Evanston stagingBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

The Broadway stage standard "Annie Get Your Gun" doesn't make its way around as much as a perennial favorite and familiar production as it did in previous decades.

The Irving Berlin musical, using an Old West motif for a "show within a show" formula, features such hits as "There's No Business Like Show Business," "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly," "The Girl That I Marry," "I Got Lost in His Arms" and "Anything You Can Do." It starred iconic Ethel Merman in the title role when it launched in 1946. Betty Hutton did the honors in the 1950 MGM film version, after Judy Garland became ill and dropped out of the project.

And since then, a long list of ladies have worn the famed cowboy boots of the stage characterization of the real-life Annie Oakley, who died in 1926 and was the star attraction of Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Traveling Show. Mary Martin, Debbie Reynolds, Andrea McArdle and Bernadette Peters, as well asSuzi Quatro, Reba McEntire, Susan Lucci, Cheryl Ladd, Marilu Henner, Crystal Benard and Lucie Arnaz have headlined in the musical. Patti LuPone even did a stage concert version of the production for the 2010 Ravinia Festival.

Light Opera Works is presenting the original 1946 Broadway version of "Annie Get Your Gun" with a full 28-piece pit orchestra now through Dec. 31, at Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson in Evanston on the Northwestern University campus. It is directed and choreographed by Rudy Hogenmiller, Light Opera Works artistic director, and conducted by Roger L. Bingaman, Light Opera Works music director.

I emphasize this is the 1946 original work as opposed to the edited tweak from 1999 when Bernadette Peters starred in the rival musical, slightly updated to remove what are some painfully hard-to-swallow references to American Indians. Since the first act clocks in at just more than 90 minutes, losing the offensive Indian musical numbers to tighten the show would have been a natural trim. The second act moves brisk and wraps up in just 45 minutes.

The cast includes Colette Todd, who is a fantastic Annie Oakley, James Rank, who is every bit her match as sharp-shooter Frank Butler and offers unmatched vocals. The duo are joined by Jim Heatherly, perfect as show biz manager Charlie Davenport balanced by over-the-top Jenny Lamb as over-the-top meddling and fawning Dolly Tate to complete the leads. Rick Rapp is creaky and uneasy as Chief Sitting Bull and John B. Boss makes his Buffalo Bill Cody too soft of a marshmallow. Chuck Sisson, as rival showman Pawnee Bill, captures the windy boasting arrogance that should also be Cody's calling card.

The design/production team includes Nick Mozak who offers ideal turn-of-the-century appropriate scenic backdrops and Brenda Winstead has created all the needed costumes to help bring the larger-than-life characters to life, with help from Sienna Macedon-Kusek's hair and makeup.

Tickers range from $32 to $94. Ages 21 and younger are half price at family performances at 2 p.m. Thursday and Saturday and 8 p.m. Friday. FYI: (847) 920-5360 or LightOperaWorks.com.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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