Arts and Entertainment

'Annie Get Your Gun' brings down the house with standout actors, stage effects

Dane Stokinger (Frank Butler) and Vicki Noon (Annie Oakley).  - Photo by Jay Koh
Dane Stokinger (Frank Butler) and Vicki Noon (Annie Oakley).
— image credit: Photo by Jay Koh

I am on a mission to be a cowgirl since seeing Village Theatre's new musical "Annie Get Your Gun." Or at least, to look like one.

Costume designer Karen Ann Ledger did a fantastic job bringing out the old-timey beauty in female actors, from bandanna sashes and wide-brimmed hats to frilly petticoats. Similarly, the male performers were transformed into boot-clickin' buckaroos.

The costumes and custom-designed sets helped paint a picture of late 1800s Cincinnati, along with the dynamite cast, who pulled off a dance-heavy, theatrical Wild West-style show. There were stage tricks, circus acts and numerous sacrificial balloons to help with the sharpshootin' effect.

Audience members who have never seen the musical will be excited to see the origin of popular tunes such as "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" composed by Irving Berlin, arguably one of the greatest American song writers.

While I love Berlin's score, there were some moments in his show that I had to grit my teeth and lay my political-correctness aside with jokes involving the American Indian characters, or elements in the plot that were clearly pre-feminism. For anyone out there like me, just remember that the show was written in a different time and is meant to be playful and fun.

What's more, it still has a pretty kick-ass female lead – Vicki Noon, who plays Annie Oakley, starring opposite Dane Stokinger as Frank Butler.

With his mustache and marksman getup, Stokinger was quite the hunk, with a set of pipes to match. But the cast members who blew me away included Taylor Niemeyer in the role of the ingénue, Winnie Tate, and of course Noon, who did the whole show with a twinkle in her eye.

It's hard to imagine any other actress playing the title role of the sharpshooter' Oakley, who, in real life was inducted into the cowgirl hall of fame. Fresh from Broadway musical "Wicked," Noon brought more than simply her famous, powerhouse voice to the mix, which never broke from its rural, Middle America drawl. She simply was Oakley.

It was a combination of looks, talent, spunk and sense of humor that helped her get it just right. The result was a character you can't help but adore – a sassy lady who says "tharr" instead of "there" and is such a sure shot, she claims she barely has to aim – and just pulls the trigger.

While nowhere near as experienced as Noon, Niemeyer, fresh from the KIDSTAGE program, was another force who helped carry the show.

From her near-perfect ponche split at the end of the song, "Who Do You Love, I Hope" it's clear that this young woman is a triple-threat ready to take the regional, or even New York, musical theater world by storm.

These women, and other standout actors, plus the entire spectacle make "Annie Get Your Gun" a welcome relief in winter entertainment from all the holiday offerings.

For more information and tickets, go to http://www.villagetheatre.org/, 303 Front St. N, Issaquah, 425-392-2202.

Gabrielle Nomura can be reached at 425-453-4270.

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