TBT’s ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ hits bullseye

Courtesy Photo Thunder Bay Theatre’s “Annie Get Your Gun” cast is seen at rehearsal. The show is playing now through Aug. 12.

“Most of the time I don’t even aim – I just pull the trigger.” – Annie Oakley

Thunder Bay Theatre aimed to delight and entertain, and they hit the target with “Annie Get Your Gun.”

Sharp shootin’ and a rootin’ tootin’ good time is what you’ll get from this high-energy western extravaganza, featuring phenomenal singing and dancing from a talented cast. Leading the harmonious way are Farrell Tatum as sharpshooter Annie Oakley, and Riley McManus as her rival and love interest Frank Butler.

Annie had been shootin’ quail in the boondocks with her poor, dirty, uneducated kin, when Buffalo Bill (David Usher) and Charlie Davenport (Caleb Michael) stumble upon her as their traveling crew passes through, searching for a worthy opponent for the “world’s greatest” sharpshooter, Frank. They like what they see and bring Annie aboard. Usher and Michael draw the audience in with their persuasive sales pitches and enthusiastic exchanges.

The backdrop is a red- and white-striped big tent in Buffalo Bill’s Wild Wild West show, which travels near and far, showcasing the skills of both Annie and Frank, until they break off when Frank joins Pawnee Bill’s rival show. The competitors are drawn to each other romantically, but Frank’s pride and Annie’s stubborn will to win tears them apart. Ultimately, love beats the odds.

“Bein’ miserable is gonna be fun,” said Annie of her plans to marry Frank.

It’s hard not to sing along to popular tunes such as “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “Doin’ What Comes Naturally,” and “Anything You Can Do.”

Comedic elements pop up throughout the play, including an appearance of the occasional rubber chicken, and the oh-so-authentic pop guns used during shooting matches.

Many of the lines draw chuckles, such as this exchange between Frank and Annie: “You’re not only lookin’ better, but you’re smellin’ better too,” Frank said, and Annie responded, “I’ve been bathin’ regular.”

Frank’s assistant Dolly Tate fills the stage with dramatic flair as she overreacts to nearly every situation, triggering laughter from the audience. Shelley McMoy plays the part beautifully, fainting on cue and flitting around the stage in a worried frenzy as she searches for her own true love, since her heartthrob Frank seems to be enamored by Annie.

Tatum’s voice is made for the stage, with an amazing range displayed with her high notes in “Anything You Can Do.” She definitely can sing higher than McManus, but when the two come together in harmony, their chemistry creates an undeniable force fit for a large audience. McManus fills the theater with his own enchanting melodies during his solos as well.

Annie’s little brother and sisters come along for the ride as her assistants in the show. Little Jake, played by Noah Roznowski, helps his big sister learn to read, and he and the other siblings, played by Tori Eller (Jessie) and Laura Poli (Nellie), sing and dance along in “Doin’ What Comes Naturally,” and sing with Annie in “Moonshine Lullaby.”

After the intermission, this professional cast illustrated the meaning of the term, “The show must go on.” In the middle of the upbeat musical number, “Who Do You Love? I Hope,” the music cut out, but the dancing continued, with actress Janna Schmid (Winnie Tate) calling out, “We don’t need music to dance!” She and her partner Ray Gleaves (Tommy Keeler) led the troupe in a fast-paced dance to a beat called out by the other cast members. The audience applauded and cheered at the successful display of determination and grit. The music came back on in time for the next scene, with no delays or interruptions to the performance.

Ben Marshall does a convincing job as the smarmy Pawnee Bill, and Chaunery Tanguay commands respect as Chief Sitting Bull.

The ensemble does more than just “back up” the lead actors in this entertaining show – they bring an energy and spirit to the stage that fills the entire theater with joy. Ensemble members include: Lois Ellise, Danessa Hellus, Peyton Johnson, Jasmine Young, Michael Loman, Bobby Hogan, Adrian Alexander and Ryan Heath.

Irving Berlin’s “Annie Get Your Gun,” directed by Michael Kaish, runs now through Aug. 12 with show times at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. No show is scheduled for Aug. 4 due to TBT’s free public performance of “Hairspray” that night at the Bay View Park Bandshell as part of True North Radio Network’s Summer Concert Series.

Tonight is the first late-night cabaret following the performance at John A. Lau Saloon. Another post-performance cabaret will be Aug. 10. These events allow playgoers to mingle with the cast members and get to know them better.

For reservations, call the TBT box office at 989-354-2267 or order online at www.thunderbaytheatre.com.

Darby Hinkley can be reached via email at dhinkley@thealpenanews.com, or by phone at 989-354-3111 ext. 324.