So, you want to stage one of the big ones—a musical from the pantheon, a Broadway classic. The good news is, you’ll have no trouble selling tickets. The bad news is, you'd better get it exactly right. You're about to be measured against the likes of Ethel Merman. Or a film version with a huge budget. No pressure, right?
"Annie Get Your Gun" is Irving Berlin's masterpiece, and that alone places it among the elite. Can Stage Door pull this one off?
Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Atlanta, get your tickets! This brilliant cast works a small miracle of stagecraft. They've polished an “old chestnut” of a show and turned it to solid gold.
In case you're new to this stuff, this particular Annie, not to be confused with the “little red-headed girl,” is Annie Oakley, a real-life sharpshooter from Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. Her object of tomboy affection is fellow gunsmith Frank Butler. And their romance brings us such classic songs as “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better,” “I Got the Sun in the Morning” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
The best of the American Songbook. And the laughs are pretty great, too.
Can we have a quick shout-out to set designer Chuck Welcome? One of the most delicious parts of attending a Stage Door performance is the moment you enter the room, ticket in hand. Then you see some new, ingenious set that creates the fantasy world in which you'll spend the next two hours. It's fun just watching people arrive and go, "Wow!" In this case, we find ourselves with the perfect atmosphere of a canvas tent, ready for show business.
Now back to that cast. Paige Mattox as Annie, Bryant Smith as Frank and their supporting performers have a terrific chemistry, each bringing out the best in the others. It's clear all the actors are enjoying themselves as much as we are, and that counts for a lot.
Hao Feng as Tommy and Alexandra Ficken as Winnie are a knife thrower and his lovely assistant. Winnie’s older sister, Dolly (portrayed by Jennifer Smiles), disapproves of their romance since Tommy is “half-Indian” and Winnie is under age. Feng and Ficken are charming together, and they can sing and dance a lick, too. Smiles is perfect as the high-strung, overbearing older sister.
Michael L. Pugh is Buffalo Bill Cody, the larger-than-life ringmaster who helps to create the American myth of the Wild West. Charlie Davenport (Jeremy Wood) is his manager, juggling the details of running a traveling show while trying to keep peace among the crew. And George Deavours is the great chief Sitting Bull who joins the show and “adopts” Annie, renaming her “Little Sure Shot.” Deavours once again proves he’s an excellent straight man as Sitting Bull dispenses his little nuggets of wisdom.
Annie’s younger siblings are played by Sam Costantino (Little Jake), Leah Parris (Jessie) and Olivia Windley (Nellie). They, along with Annie, provide plenty of laughs in the first act just “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly.”
The talented Robert Mitchel Owenby tackles two roles: hotel owner Foster Wilson and Buffalo Bill’s rival, showman Pawnee Bill. Owenby’s performance in both is so natural we forget we’ve already seen him when he makes his second appearance. Rounding out the cast are ensemble members Shelby Folks, Benny Higgins, Nolan Martin, Becca Potter and Adam Schuh.
Great casting is one of the true strengths of Stage Door Players, and this show is Exhibit A.
“Annie Get Your Gun” is directed by Stage Door Players’ Artistic Director Robert Egizio with musical direction by Nick Silvestri. Additional technical assistance is provided by Jen MacQueen (choreographer), J.D. Williams (lighting design), Jim Alford (costume design), Kathy Ellsworth (properties design), Rial Ellsworth (sound design), George Deavours (wig design), A.J. Stevenson (stage manager) and band members Kaylee Bramlett, Adam Wolfe, Jonathan Swygert, Drew Burkett and Joseph Cho.
Performances continue through Aug. 6 at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $33 for adults, $30 for senior adults, $22 for students and $15 for youth under 12 years.
Tickets are available by contacting the Box Office at (770) 396-1726. Stage Door Players is located in the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center at 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody and at stagedoorplayers.net.