The lament of Annie Oakley is the same as career women at the top of their game the world over; a good man who isn’t threatened by their success is hard to find.
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What’s particularly galling is just how willing Annie’s male friends are to sabotage her in order for her intended, and main competition, Frank Butler to win the day and save face so he’s able to propose – even when it means gambling away all her money in the process.
Fortunately, this is musical theatre land and Frank Butler’s a stand up guy who overcomes his misgivings about marrying a woman who can do anything better than him. In real life, the couple married shortly after their first fateful meeting where the 15-year-old Oakley beat variety show marksman Butler in a tense shoot off. The original Oakley’s story is also somewhat more interesting than that of mere romantic lead, but that’s for another day.
Playing the fiery sharp shooter, Emma Williams gives Oakley a warm, charming core that remains central to the character as she evolves from a Redneck huntress to refined circus performer. Her Anything I Can Do, You Can Do Better, sing off with romantic foil Butler, an understated Jason Donovan, is the highlight of the show. However, one can’t help but wish Donovan would push his part a little further and and really vie with Williams.
The supporting cast and orchestra work effortlessly together, the production flowing at an even, upbeat pace, their reprise of No Business Like Show Business as a finale leaving the audience with a sense of perky cheer.
The use of balloons and firing at clay pigeons toward the audience are neat methods of illustrating the shooting tricks the pair engage in, but never really get close to paying homage to the astonishing ability of Oakley and Butler; both of whom were performing dazzling feats of marksmanship well into their sixties.
Run ends Saturday.