Irving Berlin’s "Annie Get Your Gun” at Limelight is fast-paced and fun, Photo by Sharon Friedes
Photos by Sharon Friedes

Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun at Limelight is fast-paced and fun

A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW: Annie Get Your Gun at Limelight Theatre in St. Augustine

St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre opened a rip-roaring version of Irving Berlin’s 1946 hit musical Annie Get Your Gun on September 20, which runs through October 20, 2019. The production is sponsored by St. Augustine’s Raintree Restaurant, which has a wonderful menu and is currently offering a combined full course dinner and theatre ticket to patrons at a discount. Call (904) 824-7211 for more details. 

Annie Get Your Gun, which is based on historical characters and happenings, is popular with both adults and school-age children. Notably, Berlin was asked to write the lyrics in a short time before the opening, and it holds a special place in musical theatre history for the number of songs which became hits afterward.  You know these songs; they include “The Girl That I Marry,“ “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “I Got the Sun in the Morning,” and “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better.”

As the story begins, performers in Buffalo Bill Cody’s (Andy Nance) Wild West Show gather on the lawn of a hotel where they are planning to stay for the night.  However, the owner, Foster Wilson (Jim Cadigan) doesn’t want them there. Performers from Pawnee Bill’s Wild West show have just left after an overnight stay, and Foster wants nothing more to do with showfolks. Charlie Davenport (Burt Kierstead), the show’s manager, persuades Wilson to reconsider and allow a shooting match between one of the performers and a local resident. (And later in the story, Pawnee Bill (Charles Ross) and Bill Cody become show business partners after encountering financial troubles.)  

Irving Berlin’s "Annie Get Your Gun” at Limelight is fast-paced and fun, Photo by Sharon Friedes

Buffalo Bill’s show features the handsome self-confident sharpshooter Frank Butler, portrayed by Bob Pritchard in his twenty-sixth musical, along with Indians and horses. The character holds himself in high esteem, finds being bested intolerable, and has firm ideas about the girl he will marry who will “wear satins and laces and smell of cologne.” Prichard is an excellent choice for this role which requires both comedic skills and a fine singing voice. We have enjoyed his performance in a number of past appearances, which included Max in The Producers at Flagler Theatre and Scrooge in Inspecting Carol at Players by the Sea

Life changes for Frank when Annie Oakley, an unschooled backwoods rough tough tomboy, arrives in town with her rifle and three young siblings – Nellie (Amelia Munley), Jessie (Sophia Goral), and Little Jake (Ava Rodriquez) – and agrees to represent local talent in the shooting match. She’s a skilled sharpshooter who’s been hunting for most of her young life. Annie, of course, easily wins the match and then agrees to join the show. While on tour, Frank and Annie find they are in love – but rocky times are ahead.

Irving Berlin’s "Annie Get Your Gun” at Limelight is fast-paced and fun, Photo by Sharon Friedes

Annie is portrayed by Kristin Pidcock who is Limelight’s Director of Education. Kristin is picture-perfect in the role as she has a fabulous singing voice and is also a fine comedienne. We recall her wonderful performance as Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly.

 Michelle Munley has a key role as Dolly Tate, Frank’s worldly-wise manager, who is also interested in him romantically. We have seen Michelle previously in a number of roles as a singer, which included appearances at Orlando’s Mark II Dinner Theatre. 

 Ben LaBonne as Tommy Keeler and Jodie Jernigan as Winnie Tate are young and in love, which is conveyed in two romantic duets: “I’ll Share it All With You” and “Who Do You Love, I Hope.” 

Irving Berlin’s "Annie Get Your Gun” at Limelight is fast-paced and fun, Photo by Sharon Friedes

David Lippold, in his Limelight Theatre debut, is well-cast in the pivotal role of Sitting Bull, a Lakota Sioux chief, who tours with the show. He provides wise counsel to those responsible for the show’s success, and more importantly, to Annie, as she tries to win back Frank’s affection after a clash.  

Of note, the 1946 version of the show has been criticized in the past for its treatment of Native Americans. Limelight’s production uses the revised book written by Peter Stone for a 1999 revival, which deleted belittling content.  

We liked the way Director Missey Schmotzer cast the fifteen actors and actresses of various ages in the ensemble, and dressed them in unusual costumes and colorful gowns. They portrayed many different characters, both as performers in the Wild West show and as welcoming hosts when the show toured Europe. 

Irving Berlin’s "Annie Get Your Gun” at Limelight is fast-paced and fun, Photo by Sharon Friedes

The ensemble cast members for Annie Get Your Gun included Liz Morris, Greg Schuknect, Annie Blalock, Alexander White, Donna Boggess, Steven Rich, Lauren Ashley Buckley, David Williams, Bethann Vidmar, Anna Kerlienevich, Robert Anderson, Melissa McCall, Rich Nowell, Sarah “Sunnie” Boggs and Nicole Miller.

The scenic design by Dom Grasso was based on a large circus tent which extended over the length of the stage. Set pieces were added/removed under the direction of Scenic Change Artist Nancy Grasso.

Irving Berlin’s "Annie Get Your Gun” at Limelight is fast-paced and fun, Photo by Sharon Friedes

Jillianne Tamillo choreographed the many colorful dances. Musical Director Shelli Long was on the keyboard, with Todd Low (drums) and Kimberly Zielinski (violin). Others in the production staff included Carl Liberatore (Lighting Design), Mykala Bazzell (StageHand), JoAnn Nance (Stage Manager), and Kal Petersen (Assistant Stage Manager/) Costume Design.

We loved this lavish production of Annie Get Your Gun which is fast-paced and fun. The theatre is located at 11 Old Mission Avenue; ample FREE PARKING is available. Visit limelight-theatre.org or call 904-825-1164 for reservations.

Irving Berlin’s "Annie Get Your Gun” at Limelight is fast-paced and fun, Photo by Sharon Friedes

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.

october, 2021

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