Annie Scores a Bull’s-Eye: ANNIE GET YOUR GUN at Yardley Players

by Arlene Price Kohler

Irving Berlin’s ANNIE GET YOUR GUN opened on Broadway in 1946 and ran for 1,147 performances.  It is classic musical theater at its best with some of Berlin’s finest songs. For leading lady Ethel Merman it was the biggest Broadway hit of her career.  Loosely based on the life of Phoebe Ann Mosey, known as Annie Oakley, a young woman from Darke County Ohio, who overcame poverty, mistreatment and physical injury with her determination and strength of character. An expert sharpshooter and a performer in wild west shows, she played a role in breaking barriers for women with her talent and accomplishments in her sport.  She taught over 15,000 women to shoot, as she believed they should learn  not only as a physical and mental exercise but to defend themselves. 

Bill Pessel as Frank Butler and Maggie Mustico as Annie Oakley star in Yardley Players Theatre Company's ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, playing at Kelsey Theatre through November 28.

The musical is a fictional account of her life and romance with Frank Butler. The story line is quite outdated;  Annie has to sacrifice being number one to win her man.  Nonetheless, Yardley Player’s production is a big hit with the audience and for very good reasons.

First of all, the real star of the show is Irving Berlin’s  unforgettable  music with its witty lyrics.  Second is  Maggie Mustico, who,  playing Annie,  just plain wows the audience with her beautiful  mezzo soprano voice. She delighted the audience ( and this reviewer) with each and every song, not just with her vocal ability but also her delivery and stage presence.  At this point I would say the show is a big hit, but there is more.

Bill Pessel as Frank Butler might be a bad, bad man but he is a good, good singer. Great voice!

There are strong supporting performances by John Grewen as Charley Davenport, with his sharp acting skills  and good vocals, which help move this show along.  Toss in  Ken McCormick as Buffalo Bill and have them sing ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’ .  The audience was clapping along by the time they made their clever and well staged exit.

Add in character actor Walter Smyth as Chief Sitting Bull, dispensing his wisdom in clever one liners, along with a bevy of cute kids:  Stephen Szemis, Karlee SanGiovanni, Cindy George and Kate Franklin as Annie’s siblings for a little comic relief.

And just in case you are not having fun yet…director Marge Swider adds in a stilt walker, a unicycle, a juggler, and a talented little can-can dancer.  The show is well staged with lots of clever little additions to entertain you.  There are great lighting effects designed by Charles Dorner, especially in the motor bike and shooting scenes.  Paula Marie Matthew’s  clever choreography for Annie’s numbers, especially ‘I’m an Indian, Too’, adds a lot to the show. 

Bring the kids over Thanksgiving weekend ( they can go to the movies anytime). Not only will they be entertained, but you will too!  Maggie Mustico’s wonderful voice is something to be thankful for!

Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by Herbert Fields and Dorothy Fields
Directed by Marge Swider
November 19 – 28, 2010
Yardley Players Theatre Company
at Kelsey Theatre
Mercer County Community College
1200 Old Trenton Road
West Windsor, NJ 08550
Tickets: (609) 570-3333
Info: (215) 968-1904 

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