Troupe on target in `Annie Get Your Gun'

November 22, 2001|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It would have been almost un-American not to love this show.

Annie Get Your Gun, as presented by Anne Arundel Community College's Moonlight Troupers during a nearly sold-out run, featured Irving Berlin's great tunes well-sung, a lively orchestra, a stage full of cowboys - and a couple of authentic American heroes looking for love.

For two weekends at AACC's Pascal Center, a youthful, high-spirited cast of 25 brought to life the story of Annie Oakley, a country girl whose sharpshooting skills brought her into vaudeville and to worldwide fame.

From the first notes of Berlin's timeless score, the 23-piece orchestra led by Raymond A. Ascione was a joy to hear. The excitement became electric when David Jennings arrived from the back of the theater, singing "There's No Business Like Show Business" in his Troupers debut. Jennings strolled down the aisle looking every inch the sharpshooter-showman Frank Butler, who also knew how to set female hearts aflutter.

When Jennings arrived on stage, he was joined by Art Hall as Buffalo Bill Cody and the ensemble for a second chorus of Berlin's classic tribute to show people. Jennings' star power was rivaled by the incandescence and vocal talents of actress-comedian and singer Jessica Hyman as Dolly Tate.

Katherine Bowerman portrayed an Annie Oakley filled with natural wholesomeness and old-fashioned romance, along with Annie's legendary sharpshooting prowess. Although Bowerman has a light voice and a quiet presence, she created a thoroughly likable and funny Annie Oakley that won hearts.

Bowerman also created a character who evolved from a shy bumpkin with a huge crush on Frank to a dynamic partner who could belt out a fearsome "Anything You Can Do" in a comic battle-of-the-sexes duet with Jennings' Frank.

Some of the many high points in this Troupers' production of the 1946 classic included a skillfully choreographed and energetically executed "Tribal Dance," when Annie is welcomed into Sitting Bull's tribe. The marksmanship rivalries lent excitement, as did the rivalries between Sitting Bull's show troupe and Pawnee Bill's.

A delightful, homespun quality enriched numbers like "Doin' What Comes Naturally" and "Moonshine Lullaby." The children (Jennifer Dawn Sweigert, Sage Snider, Geri Silver and David Collier, who played Annie's brothers and sisters) were charming and natural.

The Oakley-Butler romance got a great boost from songs like "They Say It's Wonderful," Bowerman's surprised "I Got Lost in His Arms" and Jenning's smooth "My Defenses Are Down."

Director Barbara Marder kept her well-rehearsed cast moving at a lively, energetic pace. Verena Keller-Demack's choreography was well designed and well executed by the cast of dancers, with intense rhythm and excitement brought to "Tribal Dance" and "Indian Ceremonial."

Now in his 30th year as a teacher and theater artist at AACC, "The Chief," Robert Kauffman, did his usual first-rate job as lighting designer and technical director, in addition to serving as all-around host.

Joy Ajello lent her expertise as set designer and production coordinator, and also served as box office manager.

Everyone associated with this production deserves high praise.

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