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THEATER REVIEW: “Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun”

Nothing quashes incipient romance faster than beating the macho party at his own game.

Annie Oakley (Beth Malone) demonstrates this to hilarious and tuneful effect in San Diego Musical Theatre’s production of the beloved 1946 Irving Berlin classic “Annie Get Your Gun,” in a sparkling production through May 25 at the recently improved North Park Theatre. Regular patrons will also be happy to see (and use) the new seats, four more rows of raked seating and functional miking that makes the theatergoing experience much more rewarding.

San Diego Musical Theatre and director/choreographer John Todd have marshaled an excellent starring cast and created foot-stompin’-good dances for some very fine dancers, directed them and the large and capable supporting cast in an energetic production that just might make you nostalgic for the musicals of old.

The plot has sharpshooter Frank Butler (Steve Blanchard) and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show riding into Cincinnati for a gig. The show’s standing offer of $100 for any local shooter who can best Butler in a shooting match is accepted when hotel owner Foster Wilson (Jim Marshall) meets Annie Oakley (Beth Malone), a dirty-faced, illiterate diamond in the rough who says she can outshoot anybody. Wilson sets her up to face off with Frank.

It turns out she’s right. But thrilled as she is to have proven herself, she’s fallen hopelessly in love with the loser at first sight. Now she has to figure out how to be the best and get her man as well.

Malone is a standout as Annie, with a voice big as all outdoors and rough-hewn charm to beat the band. Annie wasn’t the first feminist, but though she would likely object to the title, she may be the first in a musical comedy. Malone makes the most of it.

Blanchard (whose Christmas gig for the past few years has been playing the Grinch at the Globe) has the looks, swagger and pipes that make it easy to see why Annie (and some of the other women) are sweet on him. He can sing, dance and anger as quickly as Annie. It’s a perfect match.

Debbie David is excellent as Dolly Tate, Frank’s flamboyant assistant, who tries to scotch the marriage of little sister Winnie (Jeni Baker) to Tommy Keeler (Steven Rada) because he is part Native American.

Paul Morgavo and John Polhamus impress as Charlie Davenport and Buffalo Bill Cody, manager and owner of the Wild West show, as does Sean Tamburrino as Sitting Bull, the Sioux chief who decides to make Annie a daughter of the tribe.

And the four little Oakley kids (Annie’s siblings) are adorable and talented: Jessie (Ava Bunn), Nellie (Claire Scheper), Jake (Noah Baird) and Minnie (Taylor Coleman).

It’s good to have Annie and company back on stage. San Diego Musical Theatre has done itself proud here.

But remember, ladies, you can’t get a man with a gun.

The details

San Diego Musical Theatre production of “Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun” runs through May 25 at North Park Theatre, 2891 University Ave.

Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.

Tickets: (858) 560-5740 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.