March 19, 2014

‘Annie Get Your Gun’ at Nation Ford High School

First-rate sets and a strong Annie Oakley dominate the production

The most important rule when performing “Annie Get Your Gun” is to capture the essence of the Wild West’s character. Nation Ford High School nailed that aspect graciously, for the most part.

As the curtains opened, the audience’s eyes widened at the intricate set design and wide array of period-appropriate costumes. The placement of the orchestra surprised me: Instead of sitting in front of the apron, the band resided in their own realm, on a raised platform behind the action of the play.

What seemed a possible distraction actually blended seamlessly with the play and posed no threat to the actors onstage. The technicians were organized and swift, and the sets they brought out were eye candy through the entire play. Standouts included the Ballroom at the Hotel Brevoort and the Wilson Arms Hotel; both scenes displayed careful attention to detail and setting.

Technically, the play was fantastic and worthy of more than a high school stage, but an aesthetically pleasing show can’t survive without an outstanding cast. Thankfully, the majority of the actors performed well. Multi-talented Emily Hoffman stole the show as Annie Oakley with her charming personality, strong vocal talents and captivating acting abilities.

Unfortunately, her abilities overshadowed Jacob McCall as Frank Butler. McCall wasn’t bad, but his voice and acting weren’t as versatile as Hoffman’s – a problem, as he plays Annie’s counterpart for the majority of the show. Standout performances include Lauren Renner as persnickety Dolly Tate, Andrew White as Buffalo Bill Cody and Garrett Johnson as Charlie Davenport.

Despite a few minor distractions, the actors delivered believable, touching performances, even if some were noticeably stronger than others. If you’re looking for a feel-good Western tale with catchy songs and good-natured laughs, look no further.

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