There’s nothing quite like theater under the stars. Outdoor theater is tricky, though — too much summer heat, humidity or rain , none of which can be controlled, can make everyone miserable. The Brandywiners lucked out. In a summer full of pouring rain and searing heat, opening night for ANNIE GET YOUR GUN at Longwood Gardens Open Air Theater was dry, clear and comfortably cool.
Irving Berlin’s ANNIE GET YOUR GUN is an old-fashioned musical in every way (so old-fashioned that the original 1946 script was updated in 1999 by Peter Stone to make it less sexist and culturally insensitive toward American Indians, and the sensibility is still not modern by any means). The type of show — show within a show, really — that’s pure entertainment, with plenty of song and dance, humor and, romance.
The show revolves around Annie Oakley (Rebecca Boswell Kotsifas) and Frank Butler (Robert Welch), two real-life sharpshooters who toured in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in the latter part of the 19th century. In this fictional retelling of Annie and Frank’s romance, the two were longtime rivals, a dynamic that allows for plenty of humor and heartbreak. As Frank, Welch is a commanding presence, with top vocals and lots of personality. Kotsifas is the one who really lights up the stage — which is exactly what the show calls for. She plays Annie with the hard edge called for, with a soft side that comes out beautifully in songs like “Moonshine Lullaby.”
ANNIE GET YOUR GUN is an ensemble piece, with a large cast that ranges in age from kids to mature adults, all part of the Wild West Show. Peter Hayes makes a picture-perfect Buffalo Bill Cody, Carolyn Peck and Ricky Rotandi are charming as star-crossed lovers Winnie Tate and Tommy Keeler (their ballroom scene, “Who Do You Love, I Hope” is one of the show’s highlights), and Joe Francisco entertains as the sometimes-underhanded show manager Charlie Davenport. The biggest scene-stealer, though, is Nance Weber as Dolly Tate, Frank’s miserably single assistant who lords over her sister Winnie. Weber makes Dolly suitably unlikable, yet on some level sympathetic, and very funny.
If you go — and you should — expect to hear familiar tunes like “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better),” and expect to be transported to a simpler time. And don’t forget the bug spray!
ANNIE GET YOUR GUN
Music & Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by Herbert Fields and Dororthy Fields
As Revised by Peter Stone
Directed by Henry Porreca and Robert Moore
Musical Direction by Clint Williams and Catherine C. Soukup
Choreography by Tamara Paulino
July 25 – August 3, 2013
Longwood Gardens Open Air Theater
1001 Longwood Road
Kennett Square , PA 19348