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.

Preview: DAODS’ Annie Get Your Gun at the Orchard Theatre

This week, the Orchard Theatre plays host to the Dartford Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (DAODS) and their production of Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun. Established in 1906, DAODS have over 200 musicals, plays and revues to their name – not to mention some pretty high profile former members, among them West End stars Lara Pulver and Rebecca Thornhill – and they’re showing no sign of slowing down any time soon.

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Annie Get Your Gun, which first opened on Broadway in 1946, tells the story of Annie Oakley, the best shot around, who’s discovered by Colonel Buffalo Bill and persuaded to join his Wild West Show. She soon falls for the dashing Frank Butler, but can their romance survive when she outshines him professionally, or will his bruised ego prove too much of an obstacle?

“The show is a classic, with some of the best known numbers in the musical theatre canon, including Anything You Can Do and There’s No Business Like Show Business,” explains DAODS’ Pat Walsh. “Those who have seen our shows at the Orchard Theatre before will know to expect the highest level of production values, with a full orchestra and professional lighting and sound, as well as a cast of over 50 adults and children, who will be on stage giving it their all.”

DAODS have been performing at the Orchard Theatre since it opened in 1982. “We typically perform two shows a year: one in the spring and one in the autumn. This production of Annie Get Your Gun will be the third time we’ve staged this show, the second time we’ve performed it at the Orchard Theatre, and our 66th show at the theatre in all.

“In many ways the Orchard’s become our second home, and it gives us the opportunity to put on shows to professional standards, where we can hire professional sets and orchestra as well as lighting and sound. In the last few years we had to cut down to just one show a year at the theatre, with the others being at our own venue of Heathfields Hall. However, we’re glad to say that we’re back to our normal six-monthly cycle, with Made in Dagenham coming up in the spring and Singing in the Rain in October 2017.”

Photo credit: Amy Farlie
Photo credit: Amy Farlie

Made in Dagenham marks a particularly exciting time for the Society: “We’ve been incredibly fortunate to be one of the first groups in the South-East to be given the rights to perform this recent West End smash hit show,” says Pat. “It’s a really feel good show, telling the real life story of the Ford workers’ strike in 1968, and is a testament to the power of ordinary people standing up for what’s right.”

Made in Dagenham is a show that requires a large cast of all ages, and auditions to join the Society will be taking place after their current show. To find out about auditions, email daodscom@gmail.com – DAODS are always looking for new members of all levels of experience.

Book now to catch DAODS’ Annie Get Your Gun at the Orchard Theatre from 5th-8th October.