Monday, May 16, 2011

"Broadway Birthday" Annie Get Your Gun is 65 years old today!

Ethel Merman as "Annie"
Sixty five years ago today on May 16, 1946, Annie Get Your Gun opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theater.  It would run for 1,147 performances.

Starring Ethel Merman as Annie and Ray Middleton as Frank Butler, her love interest and rival, the show was directed by Joshua Logan.  Merman would play Annie for the entire almost three year run of the show, only missing two performances in addition to two vacations she took.

The show is a fictionalized version of the early life of Annie Oakley, the sharpshooter from Ohio and how she became famous by entering a shooting match with Frank Butler.  Now Butler was someone who toured the country with his act and when a $100 bet was placed in 1881 that Butler could beat any local to a shooting contest, Oakley entered and she won when Butler missed on his 25th shot.  Soon after the two of them began a relationship and married.  And while the musical fictionalizes their story it does show how they met at the shooting match and how they both became famous with their inclusion in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.  Though the rivalry between the two of them that exists throughout the show is something that I have to believe was fabricated for the musical, but the world tour that Annie makes in the show did actually happen.

Poster for the real Annie Oakley
Irving Berlin's score features numerous songs that became classics, including "There's No Business Like Show Business," "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun," "Moonshine Lullaby,"  "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly", "They Say It's Wonderful", and "Anything You Can Do.".   The book of the show was written by Herbert and Dorothy Fields.   Dorothy was actually good friends with Merman and it was her idea to write a show based on Annie Oakley to star her friend.

Twenty years later, Merman returned as Annie in the Broadway revival that made some changes to the book and score and added one new song, "An Old Fashioned Wedding.".  This production was humorously referred to as "Granny Get Your Gun" due to Merman being almost 60 years old.

The U.S. Tour of the show starred Mary Martin as Annie and started in Dallas, Texas on October 3, 1947.  Ten years later she would star in a tv movie version of the show.

A 1950 feature film was made that starred Betty Hutton as Annie.  It was originally planned to star Judy Garland, and Garland even had recorded the songs as well as filmed several scenes before she was fired.  Garland's recording of the score does exist and she makes a really good Annie.

The second Broadway revival stared Bernadette Peters and Tom Wopat and opened in March of 1999.  It would run for 1,046 performances with such notable replacements as Susan Lucci, Cheryl Ladd, Patrick Cassidy, Reba McEntire and Brent Barrett in the parts of Annie and Fred.  McEntire's portrayal was met with enthusiastic reviews and there was even talk of making a tv movie of the show with her in the lead, but then the pilot for her sitcom Reba got picked up and the tv movie never came to be.  The 1999 revival, much like the 1987 revival of Anything Goes I wrote about yesterday, featured a substantially rewritten book, now setting the story as a show within a show being presented as part of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show and rearranged some of the songs as well as eliminating some as well.  The new book was a hit and eliminated some of the previous dull songs as well as some of the slightly un-pc dialogue in the original book that dealt with the Indians that Annie comes in contact with.

This show, just like Anything Goes, is one that will get revived for centuries to come as it has a witty book, great characters and an amazing score.

Amazon link for the original Broadway Cast recording cd - Annie Get Your Gun (1946 Original Broadway Cast)

Amazon link for the MP3 of the 1966 Broadway revival cast recording - Annie Get Your Gun

Amazon link for MP3 download of the 1999 Broadway revival cd Annie Get Your Gun - The New Broadway Cast Recording (Staring Bernadette Peters)

Amazon link for the cd of the 1999 revival - Annie Get Your Gun (1999 Broadway Revival Cast)

Amazon link for the dvd of the 1950 movie - Annie Get Your Gun

Merman sings "There's No Business Like Show Business" with the Boston Pops -

Bernadette Peters and the Tony Awards performance from the show -

Reba McEntire - "I've Got the Sun in the Morning" -

Mary Martin in the tv version of the show -

Judy Garland highlights from the movie before she was fired -

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