REVIEW: Annie Get Your Gun, Southwick Opera

Lucy Newton was fabulous in the lead role as Annie Oakley
Lucy Newton was fabulous in the lead role as Annie Oakley

Annie Get Your Gun is a lively musical telling the story of sharpshooter Annie Oakley.

So it is no surprise that Lucy Newton stole the show in the lead role of Southwick Opera’s production at The Barn Theatre in Southwick last Wednesday to Saturday.

That is not to say she did not have some marvellous support on stage but it was Lucy who was the key feature and it was hard to keep your eyes off her Dawn French-like wide smile.

She was lively and enthusiastic throughout and her solos were mesmerising. She has to spend a lot of time alone on stage and You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun, for example, is a particularly long number but she played it with exuberance.

Alongside, Rob Piatt played Annie’s gun-toting partner Frank Butler and his dulcet tones were a joy to the ear.

Claire Dixon as Dolly Tate matched Lucy for voice and it was fun watching her strutting around the stage as Dolly became more and more jealous of Annie.

There is a nice secondary romance with Dolly’s little sister Winnie Tate, played by Grace Riach, and knife-thrower Tommy Keeler, played by Jamie Hyde, which plays throughout most of the production.

They had a couple of nice numbers together, I’ll Share it All With You and the chirpy Who Do You Love, I Hope, and made a good pairing.

There was room for even younger talent, too, with Oscar Piatt as Little Jake showing some real promise.

Irving Berlin’s musical is packed with well-known songs like There’s No Business Like Show Business, Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly and Anything You Can do, and as usual the Opera gave us some rousing dance numbers.

The live band filled a large part of the rear of the stage and even though this had been extended at the front, there was less room than usual to move about. In some cases, the cast seemed to be chasing their tails but largely they gave us what we have come to expect from this company, a big chorus feel.

Many of the numbers finished on a nice tableau, which was held for just a few seconds, and this worked really well.

There were some great tricks which came across well – the knife-throwing routine, for example, and the balloon shooting in the auditorium.

Some other effects were not quite right, however. The lighting seemed a bit low at times and occasionally the band drowned out the voices.

Also, from our vantage point, we could clearly see what was going on backstage and that was a little distracting, sadly.

Overall, this was a lively, enjoyable evening that received much praise from the audience.