Review: Annie Get Your Gun

ROISIN KIBERD: ‘Solidly entertaining and delivered with relish, if you like the sound of men in mascara and cowboy hats’

Tuesday 9th – Saturday 20th, 7.45 with matinees at 2.30 on Saturdays at The ADC Theatre. £6-10.

Directed by Ben Kavanagh. 

There's no people like show people. Except when they're students, pretending to be show people. Pale, English students barely out of their teens, with a joke shop wardrobe and a limited props budget to work with. Somehow working to summon the spirit of the American Wild West. 

I'm not the biggest fan of musicals. There's something very false about them, whether it’s the tuneless schlocky romantic songs, the preachy sentiment or the three-hour fixed grins of chorus members. But what can lift them out of terminal tackiness and boredom is the spirit and energy people willingly put into such productions. Where production values and showbiz experience fail, spirit will sometimes pull them through. And Annie Get Your Gun has this spirit in spades.

Don't think I'm about to come over all aww shucks on you; the musical most certainly has its flaws. The late intermission seemed ill-judged, leaving a second half abruptly short where the first had dragged into oblivion. The costumes, as aforementioned, were cringey, bordering on Village People. It's tough outfitting a twenty-strong cast old-fashioned cowboys and Indians, as well as waiters, debutantes and various crooning train attendants. But the Indian outfits in particular might have come straight from the jokeshop; the chorus resembled members of a racially insensitive pub crawl.

The cast was similarly patchy; James Sharpe is usually wonderful, but his American accent (in a standard 'Befuddled Bar-room Proprietor' role as Foster Wilson) was ropey as a faulty lasso, sometimes letting slip rounded English vowels, other times lapsing into a ludicrously phlegmy Batman bellow. Will Karani played lead Frank Butler as a (barely) animated Ken doll; he looked the part but was no match for scene-devouring Charlotte Reid as Annie. Reid looks and sounds like an ADC Miley Cyrus, cheesy and unfailingly charming as the benign face of gun crime. With her distinctly un-Cambridge megawatt smile, she has the voice and the boundless energy of a genuine star. Another performer worth mentioning was Liane Grant as showgirl reject Dolly; her perfectly deadpan timing made her the ideal foil for Reid's chipper heroine.

Sleepier audience members were shocked into waking by the sound effects; this play contains more full-volume gunshot blasts than a 2002-era Nas record. Sitting in the second row I wondered if my eardrums would survive each time Annie reached for the titular shotgun. Similarly camp, kitschy design is ideal for a musical like this one, but the bizarre and poorly-painted 'Big Top' backdrop (complete with an oddly anatomical opening in its centre) seemed shoddy and out of place.

Still it's solidly entertaining and delivered with relish, if you like the sound of men in mascara and cowboy hats, musical standards like 'Anything You Can Do',  and a half-hearted 'feminist' message.


2.5/5 stars

Annie Get Your Gun, ADC Theatre 9-20th March, 7.45