Wild West Show

2010-06-10T00:00:00Z Wild West Showby WILL MOSS - Staff Reporter Ravalli Republic
June 10, 2010 12:00 am  • 

It's often been said that there's no business like show business - that it's like no business you know - and this weekend the Hamilton Players will look to prove the old saying true as they open their production of Irving Berlin's musical comedy "Annie Get Your Gun."

"It's absolutely wonderful," said Director Gina Joseph. "It's a brilliant show."

Originally produced for Broadway in 1946, the show presents a fictionalized version of the life of infamous lady sharpshooter Annie Oakley and her time with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

In the Hamilton Players' production, Oakley is played by Hamilton High School Choir Director Peggy Leonardi (who is also the show's music director) and her husband - one-time bad boy Frank Butler - is played by Ed Jessop.

When Buffalo Bill (played by Jimmie Rude) brings his traveling show through Cincinnati, Ohio, Butler (one of the show's major attractions) makes his usual offer, challenging the best sharpshooter in town to a shootout.

When the unknown Oakley matches him shot-for-shot, eventually besting him, she is offered a place in the show. She accepts and quickly becomes the show's star, chasing Butler (who is both in love with Oakley and hurt by her stealing of the spotlight) into a competitor's traveling show.

Eventually, the show's stars find a way to be with each other, but not before presenting the audience with a lineup of hit Broadway songs and a powder keg full of laughs.

"We have great music like, ‘There's No Business Like Show Business,' ‘You Can't Get A Man With A Gun' and ‘Doing What Comes Naturally,'" explained Joseph. "There are a lot of songs that I don't think people know are a part of this show."

The show also includes a few dance numbers including the rip-roaring opening tap dance to "There's No Business Like Show Business."

"In the opening dance number, we have 30-plus actors all tapping on the stage," Joseph laughed. "They all fit .. barely."

The show's set and many of its props - including reproduced paintings of vintage Wild West Show posters - were designed by local artist Robert Neaves. Neaves also designed a system of scene changes using large rotating tri-panels as the background.

"Robert studied set design in school and he worked for the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, so he's an old pro," said Joseph.

Joseph admitted that, with so many musical numbers and so many actors, choreography and blocking have been challenging.

"It's been really challenging, actually," she said. "All of the set changes are done in the light and part of the show and most of the actors are on stage through most of the show."

But, she added, that energy really makes for some high comedy.

"There are a lot of great comedic moments in here," she said.

Choreographer for the show's dance numbers is Susan Castille, and Denise Rose is the production's costume designer, a job that she says is fun because of the depicted period.

"It is fun," Rose said, "and what I did is sort of an amalgam of periods, keeping it stylistically late 1800s."

Her favorite costume, she said, is one worn by Butler's assistant Dolly Tate (Jody Parsons).

"It's colorful, obnoxious and gaudy," Rose said. "It's just got this really flamboyant, huge character; whether or not it's true, she thinks she's God's gift to the earth."

A no-host beer and wine bar will be offered before the show and at intermission by Hamilton's Banque Club.

The show opens Friday June 11 and runs Fridays through Sundays until the final show on Sunday, June 27. Tickets are $14 and can be purchased at the Hamilton Players Box Office or online at HamiltonPlayers.com.

Reporter Will Moss can be reached at 363-3300 or wmoss@ravallirepublic.com


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