Theater preview: 'Gorgeous' score, vivid story in 'Annie Get Your Gun'

Published: Saturday, July 20 2013 3:05 p.m. MDT

Coral Chambers as Dolly Tate, Ben Henderson as Frank Butler, Rob Holcombe as Buffalo Bill and MacKenzie Skye Pedersen as Annie Oakley in the Utah Valley University Department of Theatrical Arts/Sundance Summer Theatre production of "Annie Get Your Gun."

Utah Valley Uuniversity Department of Theatrical Arts/Sundance Summer Theatre

Everyone knows the anthemic “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

But Irving Berlin’s score for “Annie Get Your Gun” also includes the effervescent “I Got the Sun in the Morning,” the lyrically beautiful “I Got Lost in His Arms” and the irresistibly jaunty “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly.”

“The songs are just gorgeous,” says Kymberly Mellen. “I don’t think people realize how many showstoppers are in the score.”

“Annie Get Your Gun” was the greatest box-office triumph of the rich Broadway career of the masterful composer. One of Irving Berlin’s crowning achievements, the musical showcases the most enchanting and distinguished complete score he ever wrote — and it’s an essential inclusion in the American musical theater canon.

Mellen, who directs the production that partners Utah Valley University’s Department of Theatrical Arts with the Sundance Summer Theatre, acknowledges the attractiveness of Berlin’s compositions. But she also cites the strong book by Dorothy Fields aided by her brother, Herbert.

“ ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ is one of the few musicals with a woman in a lead role written by a woman,” she explains. “That’s why Annie is such a strong woman, similar to the Hope Valentine character in ‘Sweet Charity,’ ” citing another popular musical Fields helped write.

The highly fictionalized story was the brainchild of Fields, who was looking for a strong woman protagonist as a lead character. She revamped the girl-meets-boy-loses-boy-wins-boy plot to develop a fable about the illogic of love and the battle between the sexes. “Annie Get Your Gun” relates how sharpshooter Annie Oakley joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and fell in love with her swaggering rival, Frank Butler.

“At the core of the story is what you are willing to sacrifice in your professional life for the things that should matter most, your relationships and your family,” Mellen says. “Annie is this saucy, independent woman who is successful at what she does and is solid in her personal identity.”

The two fall in love, but though Annie can “shoot the fuzz off a peach,” the chauvinistic Butler refuses to share top billing with a woman, and they part ways, professionally and personally.

“When they get back together, they are completely changed individuals. She’s brought him down several pegs, and due to his influence, she is confident, socially mature and knows what she wants in a partner,” she says.

“Annie Get Your Gun” opened on Broadway in 1946, was made into a film in 1950 and had two subsequent Broadway productions, and each revival revised and reshuffled, and added or deleted songs. For the 1999 staging, three-time Tony winner Peter Stone dusted off the cobwebs of 50 years with a slightly altered book that respected the quality and integrity of the original.

“There are alterations that first-comers will be enthralled with, and for people who have seen the show six times, some things will feel like a completely new show to them,” Mellen says.

If you go

What: “Annie Get Your Gun”

Where: Sundance Resort’s Eccles Outdoor Stage

When: July 25-Aug. 17, with performances Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.

How much: $20 lawn, $24 bench, $26 prime bench seating

Tickets: sundanceresort.com or 866-734-4428

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