Review – Annie Get Your Gun (with Jane Horrocks) – The Young Vic

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Given that the Union Theatre’s Annie Get Your Gun was one of my favorite performances ever, and that Jane Horrocks is up there in the stratosphere of True Genius, I have to admit my expectations for the Young Vic’s production of Annie Get Your Gun were quite high. And as, after my long wait (probably got tickets three months in advance), as I sat down under the delicious wagon wheel chandeliers and behind a bank of four (count ’em, four!) piano players, I thought to myself this is going to be great.

Well, as I think about it two nights later, there were some great things about this show. Jane has a fantastic physical presence for Annie Oakley, not only managing small and scrawny, but also developing into glamorous and sexy as her character’s self-confidence develops. (I would have never imagined Ms Horrocks with flowing blonde locks and a white fringed and spangled cowgirl outfit, but she looked fantastic). And Frank, Julian Ovenden, was perfect, manly with that 1940’s stage vibrato that clearly _should_ have made all of the women fall all over him. Julian was much less of a “fathead” in his performance – he was both genuinely affectionate and genuinely concerned about his own career – and listening to him sing was a real treat, so kudos to him for his charismatic performance. John Marquez as Charlie and Liza Sadovy as Dolly were also a pile of fun and had that “big star” feel to them so appropriate for this era of musical – and this era of showbiz.

Buuuut …. it’s so horrible to say, and I never thought I’d be tying this, but Ms. Horrocks just wasn’t hitting it with her own singing. It wasn’t so much a matter of false notes, but just a lack of conviction and enthusiasm about what she was singing, a lack of oomph and pizazz. (Plus, I just gotta say, it isn’t “doing what comes nat’rally” no matter what Berlin wrote, he meant “natcherly,” just like the little girl was singing it.) She was also frequently overcomic to the point of woodenness (leading me to wonder if perhaps she was also affected by the misguided soul responsible for the poor choreograpy – whoever did “I’ve Got the Sun in the Morning” ought to be tied to a bronco and chased out of town). All of this meant her performance wasn’t selling to me in my 8th row seats. I mean, I should have utterly hung on her duets with Frank, but she wasn’t keeping up her end of the deal. Bah bah and bah!

So stupendously rotten that it deserves its own paragraph is the stage itself (catcalls to Ultz). It was some kind of horrible hybrid of a Cinescope movie house and a shitty 70s rec room – long, short, and shallow, with brown melamine walls and crappy white dropped ceilings of the very sort I go to the theater to get away from. This put serious limitations on the dance scenes, which, squeezed into this boxcar of a set, uniformly failed to gel. There were two peeps of what could have been – a bit where the top of the stage opened to show a little hotel room, making me think the entire upper deck of the set might open, or the back might open up, a hope that was crushed in the second act – and the great “Annie’s New Trick” bit, where the whole cast stood in front of the stage while a projection made bullet holes appear on the wall behind them. I thought that very convincingly captured the magic of theater, that we could “see” her flying by in an airplane and writing her lover’s name on the wall … but that magic was in might short supply for the rest of the evening.

Now, Annie Get Your Gun is a brilliant bit of writing and musicianship, and this was not so vile that I left at intermission, but there is no doubt in my mind that better versions of this show will be made, and this one, with its near community college production values and below par singing (by the star) is utterly worth missing. Two stars out of five.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Monday, October 5th. The production continues until January 2nd, 2010. For a more pointedly scathing review, see The West End Whingers; frankly, I just couldn’t be bothered to write that much about this show, but they were pretty damned accurate.)

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14 Responses to “Review – Annie Get Your Gun (with Jane Horrocks) – The Young Vic”

  1. Exit, Pursued by a Bear Says:

    “For a more pointedly scathing review, see The West End Whingers”

    Jeesus, what is this obsession with the Whingers? Their review was pretty mild compared to mine!

    • webcowgirl Says:

      They are actually fantastically good writers and you’ll notice that we went to see the exact same performance. And they’re friends of mine. And they’re on my Twitter feed so when they posted their review I remembered to stick a note about it in my post script.

  2. Around The Blogs: Number 1 « Blogging By Numbers Says:

    […] Life in the Cheap Seats Webcowgirl quite probably could have done without having seen Jane Horrocks  in Annie Get Your […]

  3. Exit, Pursued by a Bear Says:

    It was a JOKE!

    Can you believe that Michael Billington gave this crap FIVE stars?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2009/oct/18/annie-get-your-gun-review

  4. Kermit Davis Says:

    My grandmother was anext door neighbor to Annie in Dapke county. The opening shots of Darke county were no where near reality. The terrain is very flat . II really went to see Jane Horrocks. Was disapointed in her singing. I expected her to belt out the songs. Missed the song Im an Indian too.

    kermit

  5. Exit, Pursued by a Bear Says:

    Oh we can’t have “I’m an Indian Too” anymore as the PC brigade have deemed it racist. Presumably that’s why all the amerindian people in this production are played by white people – apparently that’s not racist.

    • webcowgirl Says:

      To be honest, I don’t think there are enough Amerindians in the entire island to fill out the cast, much less Amerind actors. And I can’t imagine them flying them in from the US just to get it right. Wouldn’t that be a bit silly?

  6. Exit, Pursued by a Bear Says:

    Racism works both ways. White people would not be allowed under Race Relations regulations to black up and play black characters (or in this case american indians). But youre telling me that they couldnt find a person of the correct race to play Chief Sitting Bull, so they have an obviously caucasian man playing the role. If thats not racist, I don’t know what is. But of course we can’t have a song about historical fact (many white people did become “blood brothers” with the Sioux and other tribes in exactly the way it occurs in thow show) because “I’m an Indian Too” is deemed to be racially offensive. Pah!

    • webcowgirl Says:

      I’m just guressing about Native American actors, based on the fact that in 3 years here I haven’t once seen a Native American anywhere, much less on stage. Do you know of any Native American actors working over here?

  7. Exit, Pursued by a Bear Says:

    No, but then I’m not a professional Casting Director!

  8. Exit, Pursued by a Bear Says:

    As Edith Evans says in The Slipper and the Rose “Never Concede!”

    Not being a professional casting director, I dont know how many Native American actor/singers there are in the UK. If you can get hold of a copy of “Spotlight” which is the professional casting director’s resource book, then you’ll be able to find out.

    Turn the situation on its head; imagine a production in which Rosa Parks or Jesse Jackson was played by a white actor. There would be uproar.

    • webcowgirl Says:

      I don’t know – do they get angry when a white man plays the King of Siam these days? When Carmen is sung by an Italian woman? I just can’t get worked up about it, especially in a situation when there are so few representatives of the culture at question. No one expects Amish people to play the Amish in movies either. Why aren’t you upset about Buffalo Bill being played by a black guy?

  9. Exit, Pursued by a Bear Says:

    Yes, they do. Equity regulations (as well as the Race Relations Act) would prevent the King of Siam being played by a white man wearing oriental make-up.

    I did. I commented on it that it was historically and theatrically incorrect for Buffalo Bill to be played by a black guy. Particularly one so astonishingly untalented.

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