Nevertheless, Jenn Gambatese fires on all cylinders as the legendary sharpshooter Annie Oakley. A glorious singer and a nuanced interpreter, she brings all sorts of fresh shadings to every memorable Irving Berlin number, especially "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun."
It's chastening to realize that an issue looming large in public perception in the immediate aftermath of World War II -- whether a woman could or should compete on equal terms with a man -- seems just as relevant today. And Gambatese absolutely manages to make Annie's predicament immediate.
A backwoods hoyden, Annie is a goner the minute she claps eyes on her more sophisticated rival Frank Butler (played by Kevin Earley, who offers up both laid-back charm and a magnificent singing voice). But even later, post-makeover, she's just as puppyish where matters of the heart are concerned, and just as steely-eyed when it comes to questions of competence. Under Rob Rob Ruggeiro's deft direction, this through-line remains front and center, and the story is impervious to some of the script's more leaden dialogue, which gives off a whiff of the vaudeville circuit.
Among the large supporting cast, Michael Nichols manages to imbue "injun" chief Sitting Bull with friendly-giant majesty; Chelsea Morgan Stock is winsome as the ingenue Winnie Tate; and if Andrew Cao isn't quite up to the vocal demands of her paramour, Tommy Keeler, he nonetheless makes a great physical match for her.
Indeed, top-notch choreographer Noah Racey has the pair dancing woozily atop a boxcar, and later showing the society swells how to shake a leg, ragtime-style. He's also created much to do for the crackerjack ensemble; without drawing focus, they're all fun to watch, all of the time.
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