The Fulton Theater’s joyous production of Annie Get Your Gun begins when audience members enter the Fulton Theater, which is gorgeously decorated to resemble an old-fashioned circus. Scattered throughout the theater, there are circus tents and carnival snacks to get the audience in the mood. Carnival music plays audience members enter the auditorium. The decorations around the theater were truly immersive, and set the tone for the delightful evening of theater to come.
The performance began with an entertaining performance before the curtain by cast members Ben Franklin and Gage Brown, whose elaborate acrobatics dazzled and thrilled the audience. Their pre-show was an excellent lead-in to the rousing opening number, “There’s no business like show business”. Complete with eye popping acrobatics by the circus team Two Ring Circus, and infectious choreography by Marc Robin, this number established the atmosphere for the rest of the show.
After the rousing opening number, the audience was introduced to our two main characters: Frank Butler (Curt Dale Clark), and Annie Oakley (Heidi Kettenring). As the story begins, the wild west shooting champ: Frank Butler is looking for someone who can shoot against him in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Annie is an excellent shooter, and she falls head over heels for Frank as soon as she lays her eyes on him. She joins the show for Frank, but complications ensue as Annie tries to comically upstage Butler.
Curt Dale Clark, who was clearly having a great time playing Frank Butler, expertly embraced the comedic aspects of his role, while also charming Annie and the audience with his gorgeous baritone.
Heidi Kettenring is a true star as Annie Oakley. Not only did she display excellent comic timing, but her strong vocals had the audience hooting and cheering throughout the evening. She truly shined in her show stopping number “You can’t get a man with a gun”, and did an incredible job leading the act two production number “I got the sun in the morning”. Annie Oakley is arguably one of the greatest female roles in the musical theater cannon, and Kettenring more than did it justice. Kettenring was able to let the audience believe that she was a tough country girl, while at the same time staying vulnerable in her scenes with Frank.
Richard Costa was incredibly charismatic as Buffalo Bill. His boundless energy leading the Wild West Show was truly captivating. Other standouts were Eddie Curry as Frank’s manager Charlie Davenport, and the scene stealing Tony Lawson as Sitting Bull. The character of Sitting Bull gets his fair share of Native American puns and jokes. Lawson delivered them all with aplomb.
Kathy Voytko was a joy to watch as Frank’s villainous assistant Dolly Tate. Dolly Tate is attracted to Frank, and her comically disastrous attempts to woo Frank were absolutely hysterical. The character of Dolly Tate is not very fond of Annie Oakley, and the two characters’ interactions together were absolutely priceless. It has been said that the villains always have the most fun, and Voytko’s Dolly Tate that was no exception.
Natalie Powers was very sweet as Dolly Tate’s rebellious daughter Winnie Tate, who has aspirations to marry her true love Tommy (Zach Porter). Dolly Tate does not approve of their relationship, and most of all Tommy’s part Native American heritage. Winnie loves Tommy, and she doesn’t want anything to get between their love. Porter and Powers charmed in the delightful number “Who Do You Love, I Hope”. They displayed excellent chemistry, and were a true joy to watch.
The extremely talented ensemble was comprised of traditional musical theater performers, and acrobats from the New York based company Two Ring Circus. The circus members blended perfectly with the traditional musical theater actors. They added thrilling acrobatics to the evening, while also suiting the wild west show atmosphere quite nicely. The ensemble’s energy was infectious, and they also served as fine support for the leads in the numbers “My Defenses Are Down”, and the classic “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun”.
The iconic score by Irving Berlin was played incredibly fully by the excellent orchestra, and was sung very impressively by the cast. The score was greatly complimented by an absolutely hysterical revised book by Peter Stone. Stone’s updated zingers on the original book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields had the audience laughing throughout the whole evening.
The brilliant direction and choreography by Marc Robin was an incredible combination of the old and new. The combination of the classic Irving Berlin score, with the contemporary circus tricks was a perfect match. The inclusion of Two Ring Circus made this classic musical feel new again, and that is a feat in itself. Robin’s dazzling choreography was absolutely stunning, and was incredibly performed by the cast.
The scenic design by William James Mohney and lighting design by Paul Black transformed the Fulton Theater into a stunning big top circus, and one that audience members could not get enough of. Travis M. Grant’s colorful lighting design managed to be over the top in the wild west scenes while also being elegant when it needed to be. This also goes for the gorgeous wigs by Anthony Lascoskie Jr. The production elements were incredibly transporting, and are worth the price of admission alone.
The Fulton Theater’s production of Annie Get Your Gun is a rousing feel-good production of a classic musical. Thought provoking theater can change your life, but sometimes the audience just wants to be entertained. This production of Annie Get Your Gun offers a spectacular night of entertainment that is not to be missed.