Review – Annie Get Your Gun, Union Theatre, London

Saturday 2 February 2008

Please During The Show. DO NOT FLUSHPhil didn’t make it to this one. He has issues. He insists that there is no sun in the morning (in Kentish Town, in February), that you can get a man with a gun and that there are plenty of businesses like show business. There’s no talking to him when he’s in one of these moods.

Plus Andrew knows the toilet situation at the Union Theatre and Snack Bar where a Dyson Airblade will never be anything more than a pipedream. And now that most days are Howard Hughes days for Phil, it was all destined to end in tears if not a complete breakdown.

And this is how Andrew came to drag the much lower maintenance Mark 1 and Oliver along to the Union Theatre and Snack Bar to see Annie Get Your Gun last night.

The anticipation was not without trepidation. Annie Get Your Gun is – in Andrew’s humble opinion – Irving Berlin’s finest musical, packed as it is to the rafters with great tunes and witty lyrics: “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly”, “The Girl That I Marry”, “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun”, “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, They Say It’s Wonderful”,”My Defenses (sic) Are Down”, “Anything You Can Do”, “An Old-Fashioned Wedding” and “I’m an Indian, Too”.

Ah, “I’m an Indian, Too”. Yes, this is from the glorious era of musicals when writers paid attention punctuation. Of course, “I’m an Indian, Too” isn’t actually in the show any more as AGYG was given an overhaul for the 1999 Bernadette Peters revival with the more racist elements removed, the finale rewritten to be a dead heat in the battle of the sexes and the whole thing re-framed as a play within a play.

Apparently, it is now the only version available for performance, so it’s just as well that it’s a good one. The book (co-written by WEW fave Dorothy Fields) is funny and fast and – amazingly – this old fashioned Broadway musical works well in the tiny Union Theatre.

Director Thomas Southerland (who also seems to serve behind the bar – now you know what the likes of Matthew Warchus and Peter Hall do once their shows have opened) wisely opts for a focus on the singing with some spectacular results. All the performers are strong and there are some imaginative arrangements using found percussion instruments including a wicker basket and some spoons. The chorus produce some nifty harmonies which completely transform the otherwise forgettable “Moonshine Lullaby.

It seems churlish to pick out any of the performers but Vanessa Barmby (Annie) and Matthew Eames (Frank Butler) do a barnstorming “Anything You Can Do” with Barmby’s proof that she can hold any note longer than him drawing gasps of amazement from the audience. Anna McAuley makes an excellent dragon Dolly Tate and Emma Hauxwell does some excellent comedic work as Chief Sitting Bull (and played the violin). Jacob Chapman shines as Charlie Davenport. Tom Walker and Claire Trusson are charming as the star-cross’d lovers Tommy Keeler and Winnie Tate. Oh, what the hell, they were all good.

And the audience was apparently good too. It was one of those strange nights when you sit in the theatre bar afterwards and have the actors compliment you on your performance.

You know, even Phil would have enjoyed that.

It runs until Saturday February 9th and should be seen.

Annie Get Your Gun, Union Thetre, London


For the best ever version of An Old Fashioned Wedding, purchase Steve and Eydie’s Two on the Aisle / Together on Broadway immediately. Oh and this one has some good Irving Berlin on it too.

6 Responses to “Review – Annie Get Your Gun, Union Theatre, London”

  1. J.A. Says:

    “There are some imaginative arrangements using found percussion instruments including a wicker basket and some spoons.”

    All sounds a bit Stomp to me!

  2. Graham Says:

    I saw the Broadway production in 2000. I wasn’t sure about going, but went solely because it starred Cheryl Ladd of Charlie’s Angels and ….? fame. And do you know, it was fabulous and is still in my ‘top ten best evenings in the theatre’ experiences.

    It sounds like this production is just as good, although I would want to know more about Vanessa Barmby’s crimefighting-babe track record before committing to buying a ticket.

  3. Helen Smith Says:

    It sounds fabulous and I was going to book on the strength of your endorsement. But it seems I’m not the only one – it has sold out. What a shame. Never mind. It’s good for the theatre anyway – reasonably priced entertaining shows that draw gasps of amazement from the audience deserve to sell out.

  4. Joy Hunt Says:

    And Helen you really did miss a fabulous show!

    I’ve been to all of Thomas Southerland’s shows at The Union and they have all been brilliant!

    Try and book early for his next one!

  5. Harriette Says:

    I saw this show, it felt like aaages ago. Hat off to Vanessa Barmby. Brilliant!!

  6. johnnyfoxlondon Says:

    I was just checking this review for some references to the 1999 rehashed version, in order to slag off the 2017 at the Union. Little Tommy Southerland behind the bar. Whatever happened to him? 🙂

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