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Broadway vitality at its best

The Alice Busch Theater
07/16/2011 -  and July 18, 22, 24, 30, August 2, 4, 6, 9, 12*, 15, 18, 20, 21, 2011
Irving Berlin: Annie Get Your Gun
Deborah Voigt (Annie Oakley), Rod Gilfry (Frank Butler), Klea Blackhurst (Dolly Tate), Jake Gardner (Buffalo Bill Cody), Nick Santa Maria (Chief Sitting Bull), Drew Taylor (Charlie Davenport), Wes Mason (Mac), Peter Macklin (Pawnee Bill, Foster Wilson), Richard Pittsinger (Little Jake), Maria Pittsinger (Nellie), Addy Schneider (Jessie), Lauren Snouffer (Minnie), Jessica Stavros (Mrs. Sylvia Potter-Porter)
The Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra, A 17-member ensemble from the Young Artists Program, Bonnie Koestner (Chorus Master), Kristen Blodgette (Conductor)
Francesca Zambello (Director), Court Watson (Sets and Costumes), Eric Sean Fogel (Choreographer), Mark McCullough (Lighting)

D. Voigt & R. Gilfry(© Julieta Cervantes)

One of Francesca Zambellos’s main innovations for Glimmerglass is to schedule a classic American musical each season. This is not exactly without precedent: the previous administration successfully produced Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate in 2008, and the festival has a long track record of Gilbert and Sullivan and other operettas.

In support of this initiative Ms Zambello touts the absence of amplification, plus a live orchestra of decent size (42 players in this case), just as it was done before the invention of the bodymic, the electronic drum kit, the mixing console - not to mention the hearing-damaged audience.

The singular sensation of the show was the casting of Deborah Voigt in the title role. She shows all the requisite humor and spunk and evinces a right amount of chemistry with the “love interest” Rod Gilfry. The role lies low but there are a couple of moments where her voice is allowed to soar upwards and one can’t help wish there were more of them. She benefits from being placed front and center; for one number in particular, “Moonshine Lullaby”, she is placed off to the side, and audibility is a problem.

(Ms Voigt is the festival’s artist-in-residence this season and is being kept busy. In addition to the 14-performance run of the musical, she has her own hour-long cabaret show which has had dates added to its schedule.)

Mr Gilfry has the proper ease and sense of mischief for the role. Jake Gardner as Buffalo Bill Cody and Nick Santa Maria as Chief Sitting Bull also bring a lot of character to their roles.

The versatile Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra under Kirsten Blodgette has just the right approach to the score, alternating brashness with warmth. They performed the 1966 version of the work (not the original of 1946). In this version a romantic sub-plot is cut, with the loss of two musical numbers. However, it does include “An old-fashioned wedding’, which is really two songs sung in counterpoint, a device Berlin also used in his subsequent show, Call Me Madam.

Court Watson’s sets and costumes establish the production as a fun, gala event right from the start. Ms Zambello moves everything along with cinematic flow.

This musical doesn’t really plumb any dramatic depths (well, perhaps the depths of cuteness). Aside from its non-stop jocularity (one foot firmly in the burlesque tradition), its string of well-loved songs keeps the audience well entertained - entranced even.

Next year’s musical: Meredith Willson’s The Music Man, with Dwayne Croft (a Cooperstown native as it turns out) and Elizabeth Futral.

Michael Johnson



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