Review: Annie Get Your Gun at the Orchard Theatre

I have no idea how it took me this long to make it to my first production by the Dartford Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (DAODS). But if Annie Get Your Gun is an indication of the quality I’ve been missing, I can safely say it won’t be the last.

From the exuberant opening number, There’s No Business Like Show Business, it’s obvious this is a polished production from a dedicated and talented company; in fact there’s really very little to distinguish the show from the professional standard we’re used to seeing at the Orchard.

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Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun is based on the true story of Annie Oakley, a tomboy with a talent for sharpshooting, who’s discovered by Colonel Buffalo Bill and persuaded to join his travelling Wild West Show. Romance blossoms between Annie and the show’s star shooter, Frank Butler, but is threatened by their constant squabbling and professional rivalry. Can the two of them resolve their differences and live scrappily ever after?

The undeniable star of the show is Abby James, who makes her Orchard Theatre debut as Annie. With perfect comic timing and a sensational voice, she gives an energetic performance that’s more than worthy of a West End stage. Paul Farlie charms us all as the smooth-talking Frank Butler, and there are stand-out performances from Heather Upton in her first major role with DAODS, playing Annie’s nemesis Dolly Tate, and Webster Bryans in his first production with the group as knife-thrower Tommy Keeler.

One of the most impressive things about the production, which is directed by Amy Farlie, is the attention to detail. Because it’s framed as a show within a show, for instance, the set changes become part of the action, and it’s great fun to listen to the actors bicker amongst themselves as they hurry on and off the stage. The cast are obviously enjoying themselves up there, and their enthusiasm is infectious, particularly during the spectacular ensemble numbers, choreographed by Sam Eades.

The show itself is also great fun, with several familiar songs and an enjoyable story (and I don’t even like guns). It also comes with a massive helping of girl power; for all her sighing over Frank, Annie’s not willing to change who she is to be with him. And she’s definitely not about to obey…

Everything about this production – not only the performances but also the set, costumes, choreography, and the fantastic band, led by Steve Trill – is of the highest standard. DAODS may be amateur by name, but don’t let that put you off going along to one of their shows. I’ll certainly be back for more.

Annie Get Your Gun has now closed, but check out the DAODS website for details of upcoming productions, including Made in Dagenham in 2017.

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