One of the highlights of the “holiday season” is that Light Opera Works, that wonderful troupe that brings us BIG productions, takes us back in time and brings back some of the “oldies” of Musical Theater History. This year’s production is “Annie Get Your gin”, with a book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields and the music and lyrics by Irving Berlin featuring some of the greatest show tunes ever written; “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly”, “They Say It’s Wonderful”, “I Got The Sun In The Morning”, “The Girl That I marry”, “Anything You Can Do” and of course, “There’s No Business, Like Show Business”! And this is just a partial list!
Under the skillful direction of Rudy Hogenmiller ( who also handles the choreography) on a set designed by Nick Mozak, we are treated to a vision that takes us back in time, to a time when women were supposed to be in the kitchen and one Annie Oakley ( they just had to do this play because of the sparkling Colette Todd, who has been delicious in every role I have seen her in, but who was born to play this role). The play is old and very long and has some areas that are far from politically correct ( when it comes to women and in particular to the American Indian), but it is filled with wonderful music and that is what entertainment is all about- we laugh, we smile, we enjoy and leave the theater humming a happy tune. What more can we get for the Holidays?
One of the beautiful aspects of seeing a production at Light Opera Works is the full orchestra they use under the direction of Roger L. Bingaman and the energetic actors who make up the cast, each player giving 100% PLUS to bring the theatrical experience to the audience that makes the trip to Evanston and the Northwestern Campus.
In most cases, over the years, I have found that the casting at light Opera Works is sheer perfection. Frank Butler, the hero of this particular story is well played by James Rank, who sure has the pipes for his songs, but I did not see the chemistry that should take place between Annie and Frank and in fact, when they have their big shooting match in the second act, I was still rooting for her.
For those who don’t know the story, there is this Wild West Show, Buffalo Bill Cody’s Show ( BB Cody is deftly played by John B. Boss). His star is one Frank Butler, the greatest shot in the world, who is challenged by little miss country bumkin, Annie Oakley and in order to boost ticket sales, manager,Charlie Davenport ( the comic Jim Heatherly) puts Annie into the show. Frank and Annie do fall in love, but a man with an ego as big as all outdoors cannot handles a woman being better than he is, so he splits to join with another troupe, Pawnee Bill’s ( veteran Chuck Sisson). The two troupes compete and both , doing badly plan on getting the other to merge into one. The success hinges on the relationship between Annie and Frank and thanks to Chief Sitting Bull ( a solid performance by Rick Rapp), who appears to be the only level headed person, it all has a happy ending.
This is a strong ensemble piece with some hard work by the dancers and chorus. John Cardone, who dons an Indian Headress to perform the “Indian Ceremonial’ is magnificent and I am thankful that Hogenmiller did not follow this original script to the letter as this dance is far better than the ones I have seen in the past. There will be no uprisings from the Indian residents of the area. At least not about this scene. There may be a little talk about the train car scene and some of its language, but the audience appeared to be made up of North Shore area residents who braved the storm and rainy night to visit Cahn Auditorium for this show.
The costumes (Brenda Winstead), lighting (Andrew H. Meyers), property manager (Cassy Shilo) and sound(Palmer Jankens) added to the set , made for a pleasant visual for the audience and once again, for a short run ( through New Year’s Eve), a lot of effort and expense so that we, the audience have an experience to remember. The time of the show is over 2 1/2 hours with the first act being close to 90 minutes alone. I know that LOW loves to bring the classics back, as written, but understanding this is the Holiday production, which means some kids might be brought, a little “shave and a hair trim” might be the way to go.
As I said, you only have until December 31st to see this production of “Annie Get Your Gun” ( just watching the lovable Colette Todd is worth the price of a ticket) with performances as follows:
12/26 Thursdays 2 p.m. Family Matinee
12/28, Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m.
12/29,Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tuesday, 12/31 New Year’s Eve at 8 p.m.
Tickets range from $32 -$99 ( a little higher on New Year’s Eve) with half price tickets for those under 21 on 12/26 and 12/28 matinees
To order your tickets call 847-920-5360 or visit www.LightOperaWorks.com
The Cahn Auditorium is located at 600 Emerson Street ( on the campus of Northwestern University ( where Sheridan merges with Chicago Avenue) and there is street parking south of the theater as well as teh city garage just one block south of the theater.
to see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to review round-up and click at “Annie Get Your Gun”