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Toe-tapping music set to entertain in Annie Get Your Gun

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
February 25th, 2013

Grand Forks audiences are in for a theatrical treat at the Boundary Musical Theatre’s spring production of the popular Broadway hit, Annie Get Your Gun, opening Friday, March 1.

Annie Get Your Gun, you say? Never heard of it? Actually, you have! While you might not recognize the name of the lead character – Annie Oakley – and you might not know she was one of America’s first female superstars because of her amazing sharpshooting ability – you will know the songs.

And that’s why the Boundary Musical Theatre and director Deborah Baker chose to bring the famous script to the Grand Forks stage – for the songs and the romance.

“It’s always been a storyline I’ve liked,” said Baker. “When I was perusing a lot of different scripts I had it in my hand and my husband didn’t know the story but he was singing the songs and I realized there is something (about Annie Get Your Gun that) people know – the songs.”

Annie Get Your Gun is a Broadway musical based on a book by Dorothy and Herbert Fields that fictionalizes the life of American sharpshooter Annie Oakley.

The production has been on Broadway since 1946 and features many popular and well-known tunes including “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “Anything You Can Do”.

Oakley (1860-1926) starred in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. She became America’s first female superstar and performed all over the world in front of famous world leaders like Queen Victoria. Besides her outstanding skills as a sharpshooter, Oakley advocated for women’s rights, especially in her later years.

This production follows Oakley during her first performances with the Wild West Show and her romance with fellow sharpshooter Frank Butler.

“It is a true story,” said Baker. “And there was a lot of history we all learned to create the characters.”

This production keeps true to the original 1946 script. So those with the need to see an historical play made into something politically correct be warned, it has not been changed to accommodate modern sensitivities.

Gary Smith plays the supporting role of Frank Butler alongside Joani Aitken, who plays Annie Oakley, in the Grand Forks production.  It’s Frank’s love for Annie that attracted him to play the part.

“As a character Frank is kind of aloof until he gets into Annie and I like that,” said Smith during a dress rehearsal this past week. “The level of love they have for each other I really respect.”

“It is interesting to know that when Annie Oakley died of pneumonia it hit Frank so hard that he refused to eat and died of starvation,” said Baker. “That, to me, is love.”

Creating the play has been no easy feat. There are more than 20 cast members, including children, more than 20 production crew, detailed costumes, an imaginative set and live music to coordinate. Baker has directed five plays, some locally, and others elsewhere.

“Community theatre is something fun but everybody does have to work, so you have to work around everyone’s schedule,” said Baker.

This is Brett Swope’s second production with the Boundary Musical Theatre group. Swope plays the high-energy and always entertaining role of Colonel Buffalo Bill Cody.

“It’s been a good trip – it is a lot different than Clue and there are a lot more people involved,” said Swope.

“The challenge is the same thing as with any part – knowing your character enough when presenting their lives.”

Auditions began before Christmas and practice for the production has been in full swing since January. The hundreds of volunteer hours should pay off though.

“It’s good entertainment,” said Baker. “There is a laugh, there is a cry and there are great special effects. It is a fun show. Come out, learn the history of 1888 and enjoy the evening.”

The family appropriate show runs March 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9 at 7 p.m. at the Grand Forks Secondary School Auditorium. There will be an additional 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, March 9. Tickets are available at the door or at the Christina Lake Living Arts Center or Hannah Bees in Grand Forks. Adults are $15 and students are $12.