Kevin Earley and Jenn Gambatese
in Annie Get Your Gun
(© Diane Sobolewski)
Kevin Earley and Jenn Gambatese
in Annie Get Your Gun
(© Diane Sobolewski)
Nearly 65 years after its Broadway debut, Annie Get Your Gun, now being revived by the Goodspeed Opera House, feels a bit long in the tooth, despite some of the script modifications introduced by the late Peter Stone for the 1999 Broadway revival.

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.