It’s that time again folks…!
On Saturday night (19th November), I had the unmitigated pleasure of attending “Annie Get Your Gun”, presented by Axminster Operatic Society… and, well, what can I tell you? If I were otherwise inclined, I might have been tempted to say:
Annie, Get your Gun. And your coat. You’ve pulled.
How anyone could NOT have fallen in love with the lilting, soothing, southern tones of Annie Oakley
(played by Nicky Sweetland) and the other talented cast members of “Annie Get your Gun”, is beyond me.
Axminster Operatic Society’s 69th production, in a performance history spanning nearly 85 years, was professional, energetic, and highly enjoyable.
The production began strongly, as the modestly sized but skilled orchestra bibbled & bobbed through Irving Berlin’s
complex introductory musical score with vigour & aplomb.
This established expectations of good things to come; and slap my knee and call me a Texan, come they did.
A silver haired ‘Buffalo Bill’ (Steve Vernon) began proceedings, with an amiable introduction of Scene 1, down-stage of what was initially an uninspiring set of black flats. However, fears of a visually uninteresting production were waylaid by the sudden transition into a brightly coloured street scene, courtesy of the bustling southern belles and cowboys
who made the set transition with expert precision.
Vernon’s amiable performance continued throughout, as did Brian Ratternby’s as ‘Charlie Davenport’, co-owner of ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show’.
Andrew Helson’s performance of the womanising showman & sharp-shooter ‘Frank Butler’ was strong, with a more youthful, lyrical singing voice than you might expect from his frame, and despite having trouble with the southern accent at times, carried the part well.
An excellent performance from Kelly Apps as the conniving, scheming southern belle (& Frank Butler’s show assistant) Dolly Tate, was particularly engaging, with smart delivery and wonderful facial expression.
The highlight of the evening however, came in the form of the small but perfectly formed tomboy “Annie Oakley.”
It was clear from her first entrance that Nicky Sweetland (Annie) was a remarkable performer, combining expert comic timing, the uncanny ability to pull at your heart-strings, and a startlingly beautiful vocal ability. Sweetland was simply fantastic, maintaining a highly invigorating and professional performance throughout.
Whilst the main cast were exemplary, the background action lacked vivacity at times; a little bit more “oomph”
was in order from the supporting actors to really bring out the choreography: however, This was a very minor flaw
in an otherwise faultless production.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of musical theatre, yet I enjoyed “Annie Get your Gun” immensely: to the point of fighting the urge to find a ten-gallon hat, water pistol, and to go galloping off into the sunset with a hobby horse firmly clasped between my knees.
Curtainclaws rating: ***** (Five Claws out of Five).