Berlin standards are on target in hit-and-miss music hall show

April 05, 1996|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

You've got to like Irving Berlin's musical "Annie Get Your Gun" if only for its sheer political incorrectness.

In this show about Annie Oakley, stone-faced Indians say "How," the leading man avers that his bride-to-be must be as "pink and as soft as a nursery," and the heroine can win the man of her dreams only by losing a shooting match to him on purpose.

But what it lacks in egalitarian consciousness, it makes up for in hits. For, as the Chesapeake Music Hall's current production of "Annie Get Your Gun" reminds us, the Berlin standards just keep a-comin' from one end of the score to the other.

You've got "There's No Business Like Show Business," "Anything You Can Do," "They Say It's Wonderful," "Doin' What Comes Naturally" and "Got the Sun in the Morning and the Moon at Night" for starters, and they're followed by "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun," "The Girl That I Marry" and "My Defenses Are Down." Phew.

So have they done justice to this cutely packaged Berlin omnibus over at the Music Hall? Well, yes. And no.

On the plus side is the extraordinary performance of the wonderful Anita Patton as Annie. Her hillbilly twang bespeaks a girlish innocence, especially in her cute scenes with Amanda Smear, Ashley Adkins and Nicole Yetter, who play her little sisters.

Ms. Patton has the facial energy to keep the physical comedy coming, and she is far and away the best singer among Annapolis' perennial leading ladies.

Trouble is, she makes just about everybody else on stage look like they're standing absolutely still, which, in too many cases, they are.

Walt League seems downright ill at ease as Annie's love interest, Frank Butler. His usually dependable baritone March 29 was locked in a hooty falsetto, even in midrange, and his lines misfired more often than a jammed Remington.

Roger Compton also seems listless as Frank's sidekick, Charlie, and David Reynolds languishes in the role of Buffalo Bill. He looks great in his costume, but there is no one to play off him and no scenes to steal.

There are pockets of good fun, courtesy of Steve Fogle's Sitting Bull, Carol Cohen's Dolly and Peter Kaiser's pair of funny characters; but, in truth, the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

"Annie Get Your Gun" -- as Annie Oakley's old Wild West extravaganza used to be -- is pretty much a one-woman show.

"Anne Get Your Gun. Information: 626-7515.

Pub Date: 4/05/96

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