Sunday, April 3
Beef and Boards: Annie Get Your Gun
Everyone knows musicals won't draw a crowd. Classics aren't trendy. Dinner theater is out of style. Doug Stark, owner of Beef and Boards, 9301 N. Michigan Rd., has heard all the comments and gone his own way. Thank goodness. His loyal customers have followed him for more than 30 years and, judging by the crowd's reaction I witnessed, Stark has one more successful show on his hands.
The faster-than-a-speeding-bullet paced show is about two sharp shooters (an illiterate, unrefined woman and a smooth-talking ladies' man) who fall in love. Premiering on Broadway in 1946 and starring Ethel Merman, it includes the Academy Award-winning music and lyrics of Irving Berlin. The film version, starring Betty Hutton, hit the big screen in 1950.
Tiana Checchia (25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Peter Pan) returns to portray Annie Oakley, the western girl who falls in love with Frank Butler portrayed by Curt Dale Clark (White Christmas, Treasure Island). The two principals are balanced in talent, stage presence and personalities, with the openly spunky nature of pint-sized Checchia complementing the charming and subtly feisty nature of Clark perfectly. You could not ask for a better pair to watch as they meet up, hook up, break up, and make up.
The majority of musical numbers are performed by the two main characters, Butler and Oakley, requiring seriously talented performers with excellent vocal abilities. Clark and Checchia are more than qualified, squaring off more than once in a singing match, exceeding all expectations of their respective roles. Checchia's, at first stubborn then forlorn, versions of You Can't Get a Man with a Gun, and Clark's heart-wrenching My Defenses are Down, open the audience to the true story romance. Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better) brought the tale of two stubborn lovers to a competitive sing off to the absolute delight of the audience.
This cast is solid and strong throughout the performance, showing zero weak links. Three young performers, Brielle Boynton, Molly Oates and Ellie Oates shoot no blanks as Oakley's younger siblings. Stage and film actor Jack Milo (That Thing You Do) slips into a ceremonial headdress for his role as Sitting Bull, Destination Actor Jeff Stockberger (Camelot, The Foreigner) steps into the large boots of Buffalo Bill, and J. R. Stewart (Run for Your Wife) dons the role of Butler's manager via a brightly colored plaid suit. Which brings us to another character. A silent, often ignored by critics, member of the cast.
The stage's set oftentimes makes or breaks the mood of a show and the Michael Layton-created Ringling Bros.' style set for this production brings forth the playful, colorful side of the traveling medicine/circus/Wild West shows of that era. Bright lights, bold paints and spinning wheels make for a dazzling stage providing the strong background required for the rough and tumble, shoot 'em up world of cowboys and Indians.
Bottom Line: Beef and Boards' Annie Get Your Gun hits a bulls-eye.
Website: Beef and Boards
Photo credit: Julie Curry Photography
Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer, music, restaurant and performing arts critic. Catch her as Indy’s Arts & Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC and follow her on Twitter @ejmusgrave1 and Facebook.
Gotta Go is published in the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, Indiana Weekender, New Palestine Reporter, Pendleton Times Reporter and Fortville-McCordsville Reporter.