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Published: Thursday, 8/9/2001

`Annie Get Your Gun' delights at the Croswell

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

ADRIAN - Perhaps Annie Oakley “cain't get a man with a gun,” but she sure can win the hearts of the audience with one.

Annie, as played by Shantelle Whitehead in the Croswell Opera House's production of Annie Get Your Gun, is eager to embrace her new life in show business and wears her heart on her sleeve for Frank Butler (Kent Sheridan).

Butler enjoys Annie's adoration, and he may even be falling in love with her - as long as she keeps her sharp-shooting talents a few steps below his. His ego won't allow equal billing in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

Of course, it's going to take awhile for Frank to figure out how to deal with Annie's skill and for Annie to figure out how to win Frank, but that just leaves plenty of time for the cast of this thoroughly delightful production to present such numbers as “I've Got the Sun in the Morning,” “Doin' What Comes Natur'lly,” “The Girl that I Marry,” “You Can't Get a Man with a Gun,” and, of course, “There's No Business Like Show Business.”

This production, the finale of the Croswell's summer musical season, is a perfect example of the magic of theater. Annie Get Your Gun, with music by Irving Berlin and book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields, made its Broadway debut in 1946, starring Ethel Merman. A hit, it played for 1,147 performances. It was made into a television movie starring Mary Martin and John Raitt, then a film version starring Betty Hutton and Howard Keel. There have been several Broadway revivals, including the current one, which opened with Bernadette Peters, and it shows no sign of slowing down.

What this means is that the story of Annie Get Your Gun has to be familiar to anyone remotely interested in musical theater, and that familiarity would seem to work against it.

Not even close.

Thanks to the wonderfully talented cast, led by Whitehead of Ida, Mich., and Sheridan, a professional actor from Toronto who plays Butler, engages the heart almost from the moment Frank swaggers on stage, warning all the fawning ladies, “I'm a Bad, Bad Man.”

It shifts into high gear when the bedraggled backwoods sharpshooter, Annie, and her four younger siblings show up., peddling their quail to a Cincinnati hotel.

Everyone in the cast, from the human stars to not-so-human, is a winning trouper. The only thing higher than the energy levels of the cast are the spirits of the audience as they leave the theater humming and wishing Annie all the best.

“Annie Get Your Gun” continues through Sunday at the Croswell Opera House, 129 East Maumee St., Adrian. The curtain goes up at 8 p.m. today-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20 for the general audience, $18 for seniors and students.



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