Annie Get Your Gun | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Annie Get Your Gun


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Annie Get Your Gun, Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace. Fifty years after its premiere, the slightest ditty in Irving Berlin's heartwarming musical outweighs all the easy-listening pop-pap-poop of a Jekyll & Hyde.

Yes, the gun-crazy plot carries a sexist moral: sharpshooter Annie Oakley must settle for being second best if she's to win the love of rival shootist Frank Butler. But the inexhaustibly exciting "There's No Business Like Show Business" and the instantly happy "I Got the Sun in the Morning" still seem perfect fusions of tart lyrics and effortless melody. Besides, in "An Old-Fashioned Wedding," added in 1966, scrappy Annie promises Frank "to love, honor--but not obey." Even Berlin could learn. Ray Frewen's pleasing revival is a bit streamlined. Though the first-act finale "Indian Ceremonial" is included (and treated with refreshing seriousness), the less-than-sensitive "I'm an Indian Too" is cut, along with some second stanzas and the salacious lyrics to "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly."

The big news is Kelli Cramer's natural-born Annie. Though no broad belter in the Ethel Merman style, Cramer brings a disarming directness to her all-American role, her lack of showy technique a cunning contrast to Mark Brink's suave Frank Butler. Handicapped by a five-person orchestra, musical director Jeff Bell respects Berlin's spirit if not his sound. James Zager's choreography ranges impressively from the full-throttle high jinks of "Sun in the Morning" to the ritual dignity of Annie's Sioux induction. Roderick Allen creates a magisterial Buffalo Bill, and David Bonanno supplies the crafty comedy as a 19th-century bunco promoter.

--Lawrence Bommer

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