Annie Get Your Gun at Westchester Broadway Theatre,

Published: Tuesday, October 24, 2017 By: EUGENE PAUL Source: Rockland Review

Before, during and after your dinner at the Westchester Broadway Dinner Theatre, you are given ample opportunity to peruse your program notes which are cozier and freer than the ones you get down New York City way, more personal more revealing of the wide range of talents bringing you your evening’s musical pleasures. Among them, currently, is Kevin Loomis’s bio. Loomis plays not only Mr. Wilson but also Pawnee Bill, with bravura, gusto and comfortable assurance, sturdy support for the show. As well he might. Forty years ago, he played the romantic lead, Frank Butler, the gun slinging, song singing competition to Annie Oakley. He says he’s glad to revisit this chestnut. Well, so am I.

Oh, not for the familiar story. Ye gods, there are so many politically incorrect aspects to the show these days it’s a wonder it gets performed without a protest march outside the theatre. No, it’s hardly the story – even though it’s based on a real, true Annie Oakley,  it’s the songs, the songs, the songs. And even some of them raise feminine hackles, But then, the whole show does. Seventy years ago, when Annie Get Your Gun opened on Broadway it was a rousing smash and thousands of performances later in countless revivals with a whole string of Annies, it’s still delighting audiences, infra dig elements and all. Think of it as a curious piece of who we were and relax. It’s based on real people, Buffalo Bill, Pawnee Bill, Sitting Bull and, of course, Annie Oakley, the incredible sharp-shooting star who dazzled kings and queens and heads of state with her remarkable prowess.

Charmingly engaging singing star Devon Perry is our current WBT Annie, warm, delightful, an expansive performer, singing up a storm, capturing everyone including her sharpshooting rival, Frank Butler. The real Annie and Frank actually married and remained so for fifty years, well into the twentieth century. Little fifteen-year-old Annie met Frank (fine Adam Kemmerer) in 1875 when they were set up in a shooting contest, the raw, unlettered country girl, and the famous sharpshooter and danged if she didn’t up and win.
She was scooped up by Charley Davenport (excellent Kilty Reidy) advance man for the great Wild West showman Buffalo Bill Cody (dashing Gary Lynch) which didn’t sit well at all with Frank, Buffalo Bill’s sharpshooting star. He quit. Went to work for the competition, showman Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show, even though Annie and Frank were stuck on each other something fierce. The rivalry continued until their bosses, the Bills, saw a more lucrative future if they worked together.

But it’s the songs, the songs that the great Irving Berlin wrote for the show which gives it perennial life. If there’s a more outstanding songwriter in the whole, dazzling pantheon of American songwriters than Irving Berlin, he is yet to be named. Annie Get Your Gun lists only thirteen songs, but eight of them are hits, an extraordinary number. If a musical is lucky enough to have one hit song the show will almost invariably be a success. “There’s No Business
Like Show Business”, “They Say It’s Wonderful”, “The Girl That I Marry” ,”Doin’ What Comes Naturally”, “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun”, “I Got Lost in His Arms”, “I Go the Sun in the Morning” “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better” are all standards. It’s no wonder musical director Shane Parus receives top billing along with director/choreographer Richard Stafford in the program. Together they drive the show from its brightly brisk opening dance number to the big, braw finish after the spotlighted clinch of Annie and Frank, showbiz all the way. Steve Loftus’s sets and settings are choreographed into the show and Kara Branch has lent a colorful, sparkling hand to all the costuming of the large, enthusiastic, talented cast. Just be tolerant with your gender politics. Check your political guns at the door.
*
This outstanding musical favorite returns, handsomely performed, splendidly sung, great song after great song.