Review – Annie Get Your Gun, Young Vic

Wednesday 7 October 2009

agyg_poster_1518Roll up! Roll up! See Annie Oakley, the best little sharpshooter in the west!

Roll up! Roll up! See possibly the most misguided, misfiring musical revival to go off half cock EVER.

Roll up! Roll up! Begin to forget what showbusiness is, never mind whether or not any other business might bear some resemblance to it.

Notes found in the gutter of The Cut after the Monday 5th October preview of Annie Get Your Gun:

List Of The Final Few Rough Edges To Be Smoothed Off Before Opening Night on the 16th October
(If found, please return to radical opera director Richard Jones immediately)

  1. Check with the theatre: will there be people sitting throughout the auditorium?If so will have to re-think the set as people sitting on the left won’t be able to see into the bedroom.
  2. Also, the screen door may obscure the views for people sitting at the front of the stalls.
  3. Also, people towards the back of the stalls won’t be able to see anything if there are people sitting in the row in front of them. Must remember to introduce seating rake or strip out every other row of seating.
  4. Remember to ask Ultz to have another think about his “recessed letter-box Portakabin* in Cinemascope” set design. Making it very difficult to have people do anything other than move to the left or to the right. (Thank goodness there’s no choreography in my radical reinvention of the classic musical! Would be impossible. lol!) Must think more like Sir Trev, more Old Vic: deepen stage so cast don’t have to line dance though. Far too much like window ledge.  Cast keep threatening to jump. Can’t think why.
  5. Oh, must organise getting some proper programmes printed instead of photocopied sheets.
  6. Thought I heard riots outside before we went up tonight. Apparently there are no numbers printed on the tickets or on the seats. Seems a bit unprofessional. Must have a word with the theatre about it as the audience were looking very grumpy before we even started.
  7. Before press night, I MUST MUST MUST decide which period it’s set in. I WILL decide. Difficult though. I like the fifties diner Fablon set on the right hand side of the stage but I also like our Churchill, Chairman Mao and Hitler gags. Obviously it’s really set in the 1880s but then again the show was written in 1946. Hmmm. Might not have time to sort this all out before press night (16th Oct). May just have to say it’s “timeless” or something.
  8. Overheard someone complaining about the use of four upright saloon pianos instead of an orchestra! Ridiculous! The musical is never going to get a radical overhaul if people cling to silly, old-fashioned ideas about orchestras and orchestrations.
  9. And besides, the tinkling saloon bar pianos set the scene perfectly during the overture. Them and the wagon wheel chandeliers really put the audeince in mind of  the old Wild West until the curtain goes up and… well, you’re in a fifties diner. Yes, must remember to say it’s “timeless”.
  10. May have to turn down the Going For A Song bird noises piped over the action for the first hour. People can’t hear the dialogue apparently. They are SUCH reactionaries. Honestly. Get with the times people.
  11. Hmmm. Anyway, people still can’t hear the dialogue when the tweeting stops. Wonder if this set and its ceiling are causing havoc with the acoustics. Must have another word with Ultz.
  12. Is it too late to think about someone else for the role of Annie Oakley? Heard someone say Jane Horrocks is horribly shrill and poorly enunciated. Something about “gurning” and “Little wonder she made her name playing Little Voice” and “Is that her making that noise or is it Ethel Merman spinning in her grave?”
  13. Think most of JH’s songs may be in the wrong key. Does she have a right key? Must sort that out before we open.
  14. Think happy thoughts! Oh, I laugh every time we use that conveyor belt with trees and stuff on it to denote the movement of the train. I think we should make the loading and unloading of it more laboured as sometimes I’m getting distracted by the scene being played in front of it.
  15. Someone described the staging of “I Got the Sun in the Morning” as “shambolic”. Well, what do they expect when the whole cast is crammed into a recessed letter-box Portakabin* in Cinemascope with no headroom. I’d like to see them try it!
  16. Heard someone complaining we cut “An Old Fashioned Wedding”. I know it’s a great old-fashioned (if you care for that sort of thing) musical comedy number but, really, how would you use the conveyor belt? People just don’t think about these things.
  17. Still, “Anything You Can Do” went down very well with the audience and that didn’t have a conveyor belt. Maybe I should cut it before the opening night just to be on the safe side.

On the plus side:

  1. Glad we decided to give the ensemble some nice harmonies to sing.
  2. Must remember to congratulate Julian Ovenden for his musical star quality. Although I heard someone saying he is the lone repository of the spirit of musical theatre in the entire production so perhaps he’s not really radical enough for my vision. Perhaps I should sack him. “My Defenses Are Down” applauded very enthusiastically.
  3. Think the live chicken went down well with the audience. (Glad I snapped her up after seeing her in Jerusalem. Ultz spoke very highly of her).


* Note from lawyers:”Portakabin” is a registered trade mark of Portakabin Limited for a modular office building system not a generic term for a temporary on-site building.


70 Responses to “Review – Annie Get Your Gun, Young Vic”

  1. webcowgirl Says:

    Not particularly offbase. It wasn’t Fram, but just how did they make Annie so flat? (And does she worry that she “can’t get a man with a gurn?” One wonders.)

  2. David Cottis Says:

    Disagree completely, fellows: I thought it was terrific.

  3. Ilana Richardson Says:

    I thought the show was terriffic. I loved the production and rhythm, the singing and dancing, it was well paced and funny.
    It can only get better.
    Thank you for a great evening.
    I was sorry not to see a cast list, they deserve a lot of credit.

  4. JohnnyFox Says:

    Shame. It’s so overdue for a classy revival, I don’t think there’s been a major one since Suzi Quatro in 1986.

    Will sit through it on the 15th nonetheless, love the tunes – pity Old Fashioned Wedding’s missing.

  5. Paul Says:

    johnnyfox – there was a professional production at the prince of wales in the early 90’s – it was a theatre royal plymouth production, directed by roger redfarn with the brilliant kim criswell as annie oakley – it died on its feet and closed not long after it opened!

    • JohnnyFox Says:

      thanks for the memory jog, you’re quite right and I apologise for forgetting I’d seen it – especially since I’m quite a Kimmie fan. John Diedrich was Frank Butler and I think it was at the Prince of Wales …

  6. johnmmorrison7 Says:

    Sounds as though I was better off seeing Endgame… I remember a dire production by Richard Jones of A Midsummer Night’s Dream a few years ago for the RSC, in which the play got turned into a nightmare but lost all the laughs. He was however the same Richard Jones who reinvented The Good Person of Szechuan with Jane Horrocks at the Young Vic and that was absolutely cracking stuff.

  7. Paulinlondon Says:

    Glad I wasn’t alone in thinking this was a high school production with a professional cast… Pity… Especially since it is such a nice venue with such potential…

    Here’s hoping they didn’t pay the director and designer for this “work”

    Jane was fine on Saturday night too…

  8. Kate Says:

    I saw it last night and loved it.

    It certainly wasn’t a traditional production, but it was quirky, inventive, full of energy, funny, smart and definitely show business!

    I thought Jane Horrocks was fab – although admittedly her voice did sound a little strained/sore at the beginning, but she seemed to warm up into it. And yes, there was gurning, but since when have musicals been about naturalistic acting.

  9. A Clown Says:

    Where was the chicken? I saw no chicken last night, but I suspect that is the least of their problems…
    I was lucky to get fairly central seats in the rush, but second row, so could barely see the upstairs room (I felt cheated out of a proper shirtless scene!) I can’t believe they are asking £30 for tickets when you could end up with such a restricted view from the end of a row.
    As for the show, I enjoyed it, but found it hard to shake off the feeling (as mentioned above) that we were just watching an Am-Dram production.

  10. Mr Hewitt Says:

    Great review! A night in the theatre I will never get back!
    The last production of Annie Get Your Gun I saw was in 2005, the national tour (which closed early) and I thought this new production starring Jane Horricks and directed by Richard Jones could not worse than the dreadful touring version… I was wrong.

    This has got to be one of the ugliest scenic designs (Ultz) ever to be put onto the London stage. We are forced to look at a set consisting of brown laminated walls for the entire evening. The only slight change is when some fabric drops are released from the paneled ceiling (completely covered) which can only be described as a room upholstered with a 5 year olds pajama’s. I was very tempted to leave a note in the ‘feedback box’ saying, “get a new scenic designer ASAP”. The lighting is not much better. I do sympathize a little with Mimi Jordan Sherin as there is NO space above the stage to hang anything as it is completely covered with roof tiles. Then again how can a lighting designer even contemplate giving into this scenic design. I am not even going to bother going into any details, anyone lighting the actors with bright flood lights from the front of the stage is just mean.

    Phillipe Giraudeau’s staging of “Sun In The Morning And The Moon At Night” is the worst choreography EVER created! The cast look so embarrassed and understandably – I would have faked an injury to get out of the number before the 1st preview. The producer should cut the choreographer’s fee in half as there is no choreography.

    Jane Horricks copes with the role but her voice is no where near strong enough. As she said on TV she sings it as Judy Garland but she simply just doesn’t have enough power. Her characterization starts off well but in ACT 2 we just end up with ‘Bubbles’ from Ab Fab. One great thing about the touring production was the wonderful Rebecca Thornhill who played Annie. The only saving grace in this production in the fantastic, magnetic Julian Ovendon.

    I have no idea what the point is of doing a NEW production of this fantastic show is when all we are seeing is a badly directed, poorly designed product. I really feel sorry for the cast.

  11. If anybody is remotely interested in my little review of this show……..

    Of course, I’m not as well connected as The Whingers, have to spend my wages on mortgage, food and bills so can’t go to see stuff quite as often as they do and don’t have a celebrity following either, but you know, i like to thing my reviews are well-crafted and relevant, if not quite as flashy.

  12. Simone Says:

    Happy 1 year guys and I must say thanks for organising this outing which I might have missed and then I may not have been a convert to Ovenden’s cult following.

  13. […] West End Whingers it was third time unlucky for Annie Get Your Gun and, well, you should just go and read as […]

  14. Kenningtonlocal Says:

    We saw it last Monday, it did have a touch of the local town hall productions about it, but the cast were superb,(No sign of the Chicken then either) Jane Horricks was great. The production team should leave time at the end to allow for an encor applause which would have happend if they had not put film on so quick. Many of the cast were on fine form, but cannot name them as there was not even a photocopied programme.

  15. There WAS a chicken in it. There WAS WAS WAS.

    I’m sure there was a chicken in it.

    Wasn’t there?

  16. Phil (a west end whinger) Says:

    Can confirm chicken sighting was not the result of too much wine imbibed by The Whingers that evening. Coq au vin?

    Hear it will be going into rehearsal for West End transfer of Jerusalem the moment Annie run ends.

  17. TomSheljonjoan Says:

    Saw this awful School play on the opening night. “Doing what comes naturally” does not apply to acting or singing in this show(I use the term “show” loosely!
    I recommend, Annie get your coat!

  18. Never again Says:

    Also saw the opening night, what can i say but absolute rubbish, ive seen better acting/singing in the kids school plays.

    • fernie Says:

      No you haven’t – don’t be silly

      • ArchBishop Says:

        Let’s face it, as with all of us, he must be silly if he purchased a ticket for this
        As opinions count and several people have commented that they have seen better school plays in numerous reviews on several sites and publications that this poorly acted, badly directed,diabolically produced,Swan Vesta lit and Frank Spencer designed and erected stage set(sorry Frank a bit harsh I know)you can’t but wonder the country is in the state it is in when public funded money is being spent to feather the nests of these……………………………..(please feel free to fill in the blanks)ooops, sorry tangent!

      • JohnnyFox Says:

        Arts Council grants to the Young Vic.

        It will receive £1,511,094 in 2008/2009, £1,551,894 in 2009/2010 and £1,593,795 in 2010/2011.

        On the basis of this crap, they should be made to repay it.

      • Never again Says:

        Oh sorry fernie i bow to your superior knowledge/ twat

  19. Paul Bolton Says:

    This has to be one of the worst theatrical productions to hit the West End Stage for many a year. I was so incensed by the ineptness of the direction and the hideousness of the set – quite the ugliest thingI have ever seen mounted by a so-called professional designer – that I seriously question the right of the Young Vic to an arts council grant if this is the standard of the work they are going to produce. There are already too many musicals running in the West End as it is but to mount such an under-par production and to shows no respect for the brilliance of the original book and score is the height of arrogance on the part of Richard Jones and Ultz. They should neither of them be allowed within miles of any future musical – or any theatrical venture come to that – if this is their idea of a good evening in the theatre. The whole thing is a complete and utter disaster.

  20. bev willis Says:

    If you think youre likely to get a normal west end musical at the young vic why bother to go? The original may have appeal to a certain type of traditional theatre goer but hey theyre a bit like people who visit the church of england on sundays arent they? Havent seen it since early preview but thought the design was exciting, performances entertaining, supporting cast funny and inventive and the best seats?…..front row upstairs….do you REALLY need a number to tell you where to sit (sigh)

  21. Steve Says:

    Saw this on Friday and thought it was a magnificent evening. 5 star rave reviews from Michael Billington and Michael Coveney today – so this one is clearly going to divide people but it’s going to be big hit for the Young Vic.

  22. Can you believe that Michael Billington gave this crap FIVE stars?

    • H Says:

      Yes I can believe it actually. Far from being “crap” I really enjoyed the performance and I felt that the whole cast were excellent. I had seats upstairs and had no viewing problems whatsoever. I fully endorse Michael Billington’s review and I will be paying the reasonable £30 to see the show again before it ends on 2nd Jan. I have also encouraged all my friends to make the trip and those that have been so far have thoroughly enjoyed it.

  23. bev willis Says:

    oh dear archBishop nothing better to do in your lunchtimes….well done mr billington and all the supporters of the vic who have a modicum of imagination and sense of adventure….look forward to another viewing later in the run….

  24. ArchBishop Says:

    Actually I have been very busy in my lunchtime, numbering the seats at the Young Vic. I have numbered the seats in order of intelligence,imagination and adventure. I have reserved you a seat for your later viewing. You will be pleased to know your reserved seat number is ZZ-99.Enjoy and God Bless You.

  25. Frank O'Reilly Says:

    I saw it in the preview week and there were quite a few accidents, including a chair falling from the stage and almost hitting a pianist. I agree it was village church amateurish, though redeemed for me by Jane who made up with character what she lacked in voice. There were omissions. Where was the rousing “I’m an Indian now!”? There sesemed to be some strange underlying Native American propaganda, which was really patronizing. I also thought the old newsreel of 40s and 50s world leaders in dubious taste.

    • “I’m an Indian Now” was actually played over the tannoy so that it appeared to be “going on” offstage.

      Mr. Billington appears to have had his critical facilities mangled by his utter adoration of the director. Sod the production, lets ovulate for Richard Jones. How anyone can sit and watch this and not come away feeling short-changed is beyond me. No choreography? No orchestra? Its meant to be a friggin’ musical about “Show Business”! Reduced-price tickets are already on sale if you know where to look because advance bookings have been so bad. Unsurprising, really.

      @ Bev Willis: for this show, the best seats are in another theatre.


    I just posted the following review amongst the general gush – lets see how long it takes before they remove it!

    “I thought the entire production was awful. Cheap and nasty, with no choreography and a stage with exceptionally bad sightlines. Completely unfoccused as to what period its supposed to be set in and yes, Jane Horrocks gives us “Bubble” once more. Unallocated seating causing chaos in the auditorium and where’s the orchestra? Four pianos just don’t cut it and look and sould cheap. And where’s the choreography? This is meant to be a big muscal about show biz, and I’ve seen more showbiz in a plastic bucket. Less “Annie Get Your Gun” than “Annie Get Your Coat” – and just wait to see how quickly this post gets removed!”

    • TomSheljonjoan Says:

      TomSheljonjoan Says:

      Wednesday 14 October 2009 at 11:16 pm
      Saw this awful School play on the opening night. “Doing what comes naturally” does not apply to acting or singing in this show(I use the term “show” loosely!)
      I recommend, “Annie get your coat”!

      EXIT..PERSUED BY A BEAR.. I have finally made it in the review stakes..Someone has finally plagiarized my work..

  27. Exit, Pursued by a Bear Says:

    And yes, here we are, the ability to comment on the Young Vic Youtube forum has been removed, much as I expected.


  28. Phil (a west end whinger) Says:

    Exit, it’s still there, or has been restored.
    Griffin, Moir, Bear you’re all being allowed a voice…

  29. JohnnyFox Says:

    I thought several times before posting this for … how could I have so despised what Coveney and Billington found admirable.

    I think what pushed me over the edge was Billious’s suggestion it was somehow ‘Brechtian’ as if rational didacticism influenced by Marxist belief was pertinent to a gunslinging contest in 1880’s Ohio.

    Nor, referring back to my Theatre Studies 1.01 course notes, could I find much breaking the 4th wall by speaking to the audience, use of placards, gestus, narration or the determination of thought by social beings.

    What I DID find, though, was plenty of Brecht’s famous Verfrumdungseffect – or Alienation Technique – since this production effectively alienated the audience from the plot, the characters, the idea of musical comedy, and most criminally from Irving Berlin’s sensational score.

    This can be blamed on director Richard Jones – bizarrely still sat on the steps of the ‘circle’ taking notes a week after press night which must indicate continuing problems in the show – but almost as equally on the cretinously awful and self-styled maverick (read: twat) designer David Fisher, sorry ‘Ultz’ (apparently the name came to him in a dream) whose ill-lit, fablon-wallpapered shallow slit of a stage opening brought newly vaginal depths to theatre design. More at home in avant-garde opera houses, he reimagined Annie Get Your Gun as the Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.

  30. Never again Says:

    Fernie you are right to call me silly, i paid £20 to watch that load of crap when the kids plays are free.If you think that show was good may i suggest you get out more.

  31. Now now children.

    I don’t know what it is about this show that brings out the worst in people. All this squabbling here, and personal insults left on my review. Its like people think that nobody is entitled to their opinions about theatrical productions unless they accord with theirs. *Sheesh*

  32. Charles Slovenski Says:

    Haven’t seen the show, but the review is a RIOT! Thanks guys.

  33. ArchBishop Says:

    God Bless You My Son.

  34. Sam London Says:

    Complained vociferously at the interval after ending up with the worst seats in the house in the side gallery; but did then get to actually see the whole set from the front.
    How can they justify charging full price for that? How can they justify designing a set that a whole chunk of the audience can’t see.

    And agree on the dodgy 40s archive film.. Annie chucks away her Nazi medal from Hitler, but not the one from Stalin. Hmm. Lefty luvvies.
    But despite all the faults with staging, music and lack of choreography, and the fact that it’s essentially a student looking production, did really enjoy this show. Jane was great!

    • ArchBishop Says:

      I could not agree with you more. I too thought that apart from the terrible seating,the faults with the staging, the really awful lighting,lack of choreography,the bad production,diabolical music,disastrous acting, outrageous writing and overall poor continuity, “I did really enjoy the show.” The portrayal of darth vader was particularly convincing. God bless you all.

  35. Alice Says:

    I saw it on tuesday and it was amazing!! The best show I’ve seen in a long time. I’m not familiar with the musical at all but I loved the songs and the actors were great!
    Having the four piano players was a really good touch aswell. I loved how the whole auditorium was themed with the walls painted with the american flag etc.
    I was sitting in the front row of the stalls which was great apart from I couldn’t see into the bedroom…
    amazing show though 😀

  36. […] mistakes on your side as well. I think we both know that you’re not proud of what you did on Annie Get Your Gun. You never send anything on my birthday. And any time I write to you asking to borrow some money […]

  37. […] mistakes on your side as well. I think we both know that you’re not proud of what you did on Annie Get Your Gun. You never send anything on my birthday. And any time I write to you asking to borrow some money […]

  38. Steven LaVigne Says:

    I saw this last Christmas when I was in London and was very excited to see it. Imagine how horrified I was by this awful production. Why was the show done in the set for Bus Stop? The beginning of the show is set in Ohio. They don’t have saguaro cacti in Ohio! Why was Annie in a Mickey Mouse Club t-shirt? When she was the star of the Wild West Show, why was she costumed in the same sort of cowgirl outfit my sister, now 47, wore when she was 3? I had never seen this show onstage (I’d seen two TV productions, one with Merman and one with Mary Martin, plus the movie with Betty Hutton)
    and the whole Young Vic production was terrible. Jane Horrocks, whom I’ve always liked, was a serious disappointment, and she never grew up in the role. She played Annie as a little girl. See Jamie Leigh Curtis’ performance in the Tall Tales and Legends series for a better Annie.

    Fortunately, the productions of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Woman in Black made up for this disaster.

  39. […] the mainstream reviews didn’t seem to notice it, but comments from ordinary theatre-goers and bloggers confirm that we were not alone in our […]

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