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Annie Get Your Gun

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Annie Get Your Gun, Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Marc Robin's revival of Irving Berlin's treasure turns the theater space into a poster-filled, festively lit carnival tent. That's perfect, because Peter Stone's brilliant revision of the 1946 musical is set not in the Wild West but in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. The rambunctious courtship between sharpshooters Frank Butler and Annie Oakley gets a showbiz context, and Stone also updates the dialogue: Chief Sitting Bull has more dignity, and Annie is more of a feminist, learning how to exploit the double standard--this is a "scrappily ever after" fairy tale. Appropriately, "There's No Business Like Show Business" opens this version.

Cleverly mounted, fast-paced, and as plucky as the musical itself, Marriott's production offers a happy contest between spectacle and sentiment. Roger Mueller is deadpan hilarious as Sitting Bull, and Robin's choreography delivers wildly athletic hoedowns, culminating in a joyous "I Got the Sun in the Morning." But there's nothing flashy about Susie McMonagle's Annie, who shows a dogged ardor for Edward Watts's hunky but insufferably smug Frank. Though Annie and Frank are self-promoting, leather-lunged, born-to-sawdust types, beneath the bravura this American Beatrice and Benedick just need an excuse to drop their rifles and exchange rings. As benevolent Buffalo Bill, James Harms helps them do what comes naturally--but the real matchmaker remains Irving Berlin's perfect songs.

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