One of Irving Berlin’s crowning achievements and most enduring entertainments, Annie Get Your Gun remains an essential part of the American musical theater canon, and Village Theatre’s spirited production certainly does it justice.
On stage through Jan. 29, Village’s production is working from the 1999 revival book by Peter Stone, which cuts some songs, rearranges others, and introduces some restructuring via a frame narrative. Thursday’s opening night performance overcame some hiccups (balloons that wouldn’t pop on cue and a prolonged intermission) to emerge as an infectiously charming staging of the classic.
There are myriad pleasures to be found in Village’s production — chief of which is Vicki Noon’s feisty, sardonic Annie, a backwoods sharpshooter picked up by Buffalo Bill’s (Hugh Hastings) traveling variety act much to the chagrin of current crack shot Frank Butler (Dane Stokinger). Noon and Stokinger spar with a kind of balletic grace as they vie for one another’s hearts and the title of best shot in the land.
There’s a bit of a fundamental problem with Annie in that the titular character falls immediately head-over-heels for the virile Frank and continually subjugates herself to him just to stroke his overinflated ego. Yes, this is the show that features one-upmanship anthem “Anything You Can Do,” but Annie’s attitude is rarely that combative. That a show originally produced in 1946 isn’t terribly progressive is understandable, but this is just lazy characterization.
But Noon’s performance makes you mostly forget all that, with an Annie that’s credibly both naively wide-eyed and defiantly self-assured within the space of just a few moments. It doesn’t hurt that she handles the hillbilly twang of “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly” and “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun” just as ably as the romantic strains of “They Say It’s Wonderful.”
Other delights come in the form of the trio of young actors (Analiese Emerson Guettinger, Maggie Barry and Josh Feinsilber) who play Annie’s younger siblings with a sharp sense of comic timing and Taylor Niemeyer and Gabriel Corey’s portrayals of Winnie and Tommy, which elevate the second-tier romance to first-tier level.
Berlin’s score remains a sterling example of eclectic song types filtered through a distinct musical voice, making Annie Get Your Gun a remarkably cohesive musical. Village Theatre’s production bears the level of quality to match.
Annie Get Your Gun is on stage at Village’s Issaquah location through Dec. 31 before moving to the Everett location for a run through Jan. 29. Tickets are available for purchase on Village Theatre’s website.