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What Price Annie?

Reba McEntire is scheduled to recreate her stage triumph in a new TV film of Annie Get Your Gun. But there may be a catch... logo

Reba McEntire and Brent Barrett
in Annie Get Your Gun
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
The good news is that Reba McEntire, universally hailed for her performance in the Broadway revisal of Annie Get Your Gun (her run ended this past weekend), is set to repeat the role of Annie Oakley in a CBS television movie of the Irving Berlin musical. The potential bad news is that Peter Stone, who infamously and ineptly rewrote the original Herbert and Dorothy Fields book for the revisal, might be involved with the TV film.

A spokesman for the Rodgers & Hammerstein organization, which licenses AGYG, told TheaterMania that "there is no information available other than what has already been put out publicly, which is that Reba McEntire is slated to do a TV version of the show for CBS sometime next year. Everything is still in the works; no airdate, no co-stars, no director, and no screenwriter have been confirmed." But Stone's name has unofficially been bandied about. And he probably seems a good choice in the eyes of Hollywood types, having earned deserved acclaim for his screenplays of such films as Father Goose (for which he won an Oscar), Charade, The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, Sweet Charity, and 1776 (based on his brilliant book for the Broadway musical). That his more recent work (e.g., Broadway's The Will Rogers Follies and Titanic) has been less than stellar, and that his rewrite of AGYG for the Barry and Fran Weissler stage production is a critically reviled travesty, may not matter much or at all to TV execs. (AGYG is still running at the Marquis Theatre with Crystal Bernard now playing Annie to the Frank Butler of Tom Wopat, who filled that role when this godawful revisal opened with Bernadette Peters as its star).

By the way, you may or may not be aware that two television films of Annie Get Your Gun already exist--or existed. The first, a mid-'50s production with Mary Martin and John Raitt, seems to have survived only in the form of a black-and-white kinescope that may be viewed at the Museum of Television and Radio (or on bootleg video, if you know the right people). The second, a telecast of the 1966 Lincoln Center/Broadway revival of the show with its inimitable, original star, Ethel Merman, is apparently lost to the ages. Will McEntire's talent, charisma, and star power carry the new version? Or will Peter Stone be hired to pen a screen adaptation of his deplorable Broadway libretto and thereby sink the project? Let's hope for the best.

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