24-28 June 2014
Reviewed by Helen Jiggins
I was invited to preview the show Annie Get Your Gun before it comes to the New Theatre in Oxford. I took the train up to Manchester, where the show is currently on tour, before it goes on to Sunderland, Stoke-on-Trent, Edinburgh and arriving in Oxford on June 24thJune. This tour began on May 16th, which is a significant date given that the original show opened on May 16th, 1946. Based on the original book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields, Annie Get Your Gun was an overnight hit, especially with the sublime addition of music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. It has since been revised many times, this version is based on the 1999 rewriting by Peter Stone and stars Jason Donovan as Frank Butler, Emma Williams as Annie Oakley and Norman Pace as Buffalo Bill.
This production had many highlights and Berlin’s music was a triumph and was greatly appreciated by the audience. Williams’ portrayal of Oakley was full of energy and talent, she said she loved playing “a feisty female lead with such a modern outlook”. Pace, as Buffalo Bill, was showman perfection in his splendid wig and fine suit and has enjoyed the move from TV to the musical stage. Donovan came straight from his performance on Priscilla Queen of the Desert to play the sharpshooter in the male lead and declared (perhaps wryly) that the thing he was looking forward to on the run was “Coming to Oxford!”
The costumes were brilliant, colourful and elaborate, although the many layers and corsets must have been challenging for the cast. The orchestra was visible on the stage throughout, which the lead actors stated made them feel more involved and surrounded by sound during their performances. The scenery staging, however, was minimal, consisting of a collection of boxes that were repositioned according to the scene requirements and a limited selection of flysheets to indicate a big top and train ride. The seventeen-strong cast were still able to make the stage seem well-peopled despite having to double-up on a variety of roles due to their number and the performances from the cast, in general, were very good, Ed Currie as Chief Sitting Bull deserves a special mention, as do Kara Lane and Yiftach Mizrahi as Dolly and Tommy.
The leading cast members were looking forward to the Oxford leg of the tour. Jason Donovan and Norman Pace both have connections to the area. Donovan’s wife is from Oxford and he has, in the past, been involved with the John Radcliffe hospital. Norman Pace has friends in the area. They all seemed delighted to have the New Theatre Oxford as a stop on the tour in June.
Tickets to see Annie Get Your Gun at the New Theatre, Oxford cost from £23.90 to £46.40 (plus £4 transaction fee). For more information or to book tickets call the box office on 0844 871 3020 or visit www.atgtickets.com/shows/annie-get-your-gun/new-theatre-oxford.
New Theatre Oxford, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2AG | 0844 871 3020