By Briana Lindsay
Annie Get Your Gun follows the adventures of real-life sharpshooter Annie Oakley (MacKenzie Skye Pederson) and her rise to fame with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, as well as the competition between herself and Frank Butler (Ben Henderson) for the title of “Champeen” Sharpshooter of the World. The stakes continuously climb for Oakley and Butler with their blossoming and lovable flirtation for each other, making for some fun duets.
While waiting for the production to start, the audience is greeted by the performers of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Although this was a fun entrance to the show, it would have been more successful if the actors interacted with audience members more, instead of each other. The show began with the beloved number “There’s No Business Like Show Business” performed by the traveling company. The number had fun choreography, but lacked energy. This deficit of exuberance was probably due to the cold weather. After the slow first number, audience members immediately perked up and tuned in as Annie Oakley made her stage debut. Pederson’s stage presence was outstanding and electrified the crowd.
During Oakley and Butler’s first shooting match, there was tangible tension that filled the air as both shooters hit their targets. As an audience member, I leaned forward in my seat waiting to see who would win. The outcome of the scene made it clear that this was a pivotal moment in the legend of Annie Oakley to everyone watching.
Pedersen’s performance as Annie Oakley was endearing and the highlight of the entire production. Her quirky, rough, tomboy character was charming and instantly won over the audience. Pedersen was particularly delightful during the number, “An Old-Fashioned Wedding,” a number left off the program. There was just enough sass and innocence that made me invest in Oakley’s happiness and success.
Henderson’s portrayal of the overly confident ladies’ man, Frank Butler, made for an admirable antagonist to Oakley. Because I was rooting for Oakley to succeed in her conquest to marry Butler, I desperately wanted to like Henderson’s character. However, it wasn’t until one of the final numbers, “Anything You Can Do” that Henderson showed the laughable loveable desperate side to Butler, letting the audience care for him and root for the couple to end up together.
The leads did an excellent job at fulfilling their roles, as well as standout performances from Coral Chambers and Jordan Cummings in their supporting roles. Chambers’ performance as Dolly Tate was full of attitude and every entrance was grand and over the top. I enjoyed Cummings’ performance as the wisecracking businessman Charlie, who also served as an onstage “stage manager” announcing the number and location of the upcoming scene.
The forbidden romance between Winnie Tate (Hanna Cutler) and Tommy (Chase Elwood) served as a subplot to the major story of Oakley and Butler. The performers did an adequate job singing and dancing, but had an absence of chemistry between them. This made for a lack of investment in their storyline and made their scenes drag. The lack of tension was particularly apparent during the number “Who Do You Love, I Hope.” I was more involved in the background characters and their costumes than what was happening between the couple. Sundance’s beautiful landscape made for the perfect location to tell the story of Annie Oakley. The majority of the simple set was dressed in drops designed by Stephen Purdy, with excellent lighting designs for the difficult space by Brian Healy. The set changes flowed smoothly, except between “Act I Finale” and “Act II” possibly due to the intermission being moved up because of weather. Becca Bailey Klepko’s costume design for the production was stunning. The color palette was beautiful and complimented the time period. The makeup and wig designs by Lara Beene enhanced the show, although the half naked Indian could have used some blending.
I enjoyed this show immensely and it was a great first experience to the legend of Annie Oakley, never having seen a previous production of Annie Get Your Gun. The production was a delight and audience members left the theatre singing their favorite numbers from the show, especially the well-known tune “Anything You Can Do.” I would highly recommend bringing warm blankets and coats, because it can get very chilly up the mountain, especially when it’s dark.
The Sundance Summer Theatre – Utah Valley University
Annie Get Your Gun
Sundance Resort (8841 N. Alpine Loop Road Sundance, UT)
Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 PM through August 17