Review: 'Annie' gets audiences rolling

Irving Berlin’s great “Annie Get Your Gun,” chock full of show-tune hits, is a musical that hasn’t been staged particularly often, or recently, in the Bay Area. Perhaps that’s because, even today, the person in the title role has a big job to do, following the footsteps of Ethel Merman, for whom the role was created way back in the 1940s.

But Broadway By the Bay in San Mateo has found an excellent Annie in Virginia Wilcox, who belts the songs not at all like Merman, but with the natural spunk and spirit that defines the character — the real-life Annie Oakley, a sharpshooter who starred in Buffalo Bill’s traveling Western shows in the late 1800s.

The list of songs ranks with Broadway’s best: “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “Anything You Can Do,” “I Got the Sun in the Morning,” “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly,” “You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun” … there isn’t a filler tune in the bunch, and even the lesser-known numbers are a delight.

The story (book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields), about how the feisty Annie meets and falls in love with her shooting co-star Frank Butler, is light as fluff — and dated. Even a new adaptation by Peter Stone, which takes out some offensive Native American references and adds in funny ones (the song “I’m an Indian Too,” for example, is cut and comments about casinos are added), doesn’t offer any real depth or insight, or give the show any particularly modern appeal. But that’s hardly the point, for “Annie Get Your Gun” celebrates good times and good feelings, and Broadway By the Bay’s lively production goes down mighty easily.

The convivial David Sattler (who appeared in BBB’s “Miss Saigon” last year) holds his own as Frank, who sings the dreamy “The Girl That I Marry” and bouncy “My Defenses Are Down,” featuringyoung men dancing their hearts out — a sight that’s one of the real joys of the community theater experience.

Tommy and Winnie (Shaun Repetto and Dominique Bonino), a young couple in love and also in Buffalo Bill’s show, knock the socks off their showpiece song-and-dance number, “Who Do You Love, I Hope.”

Meanwhile, Amy Nielson, Cameron Weston, John Duggan and John Musgrave display comic chops as show staffers Dolly Tate, Charlie Davenport, Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill.

The chorus boys and girls really sell the big numbers, choreographed by Jayne Zaban, while the orchestra, under the baton of Mark Hanson (decked out in a cowboy hat) sounds terrific. In the end, director Alex Perez serves up a big, delicious serving of one of the best entertainments America has to offer.

Annie Get Your Gun

Presented by Broadway by the Bay

Where: San Mateo Performing Arts Center, 600 N. Delaware St., San Mateo

When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays; closes Oct. 7

Tickets: $17 to $42

Contact: (650) 579-5565 or www.broadwaybythebay.org

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