Showbiz’ Original Annie is in Ojai
by Jim Spencer and Shirley Lorraine
The world’s first entertainment superstar was William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. For three decades he toured America and Europe with a cast of hundreds presenting his wild
For 17 years the star of the show was a petite exhibition sharpshooter who became a national heroine. Her name was Annie Oakley.
There have been movies, plays, TV shows and countless books based on parts of Annie’s life. The most memorable is the musical comedy Annie Get Your Gun, now on stage at the Ojai Art Center Theatre through July 31.
The story focuses on the budding and stormy romance between Annie and Frank Butler, the renown marksman she defeated in a shooting match.
The action is highlighted throughout with the delightful music and lyrics of master composer Irving Berlin, featuring such well known musical comedy staples as “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, “Anything You Can Do (I can do better)” and “You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun.”
The stage is filled to capacity with a cadre of actors including a wide range of ages and abilities, from almost no experience to stage-seasoned. All are enthusiastic and put on a lively show. How Ojai ACT consistently fills its small stage with so many without seeming crowded is magic in itself.
Director Tracey Williams Sutton has infused the ensemble with many authentic touches as well as a few well-placed updated lines to add to the humor. Written in the 1950’s, the lines may seem a bit corny at times to some but are played with well intentioned delight. Saturday night’s audience actively responded without reserve.
Familiar characters of historical significance are Annie (played to the hilt by Holly Sewell), Frank Butler (Scott White, who sports a made-for-the-musical-stage voice), Buffalo Bill Cody himself (Cecil Sutton) and an energetic and dignified Chief Sitting Bull (Armando Hernandez).
Other members of Buffalo Bill’s troupe who receive particularly notable characterizations include road manager Charlie Davenport (Michael McCarthy), Butler’s assistant, Dolly Tate (Denise Heller) and Tommy Keeler (Ezra Eells).
Cowboys, Indians and assorted show folk are plentiful, breaking into fervent song and dance at the drop of the proverbial ten-gallon hat. The ubiquitous ensemble also changes the scenery and keeps the action moving.
Annie Get Your Gun is a top-notch choice of entertainment for the entire family and a toe-tapping way to get the summer rolling. Now with lower ticket prices coupled with the comfortable Ojai evenings, this production offers smiles, laughs, music and dance everyone can enjoy.
Arrive early so you won’t miss the live preshow and multi-media feature that fills in the back story about the life and times of Annie Oakley – “Little Miss Sure Shot.” It starts ten minutes before curtain time.
Annie Get Your Gun plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through July 31 at the Ojai Art Center, 113, S. Montgomery St., Ojai. Tickets: $15-$20. Information and reservations 640-8797 or www.ojaiact.org.