These boots were made for dancin’
If you go…
What: “Annie Get Your Gun” musical
Where: Saranac Lake High School, 79 Canaras Ave.
When: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $10 adults, $8 students
SARANAC LAKE — Costumer Kent Streed asked for a show of hands for anybody who doesn’t have cowboy boots. Most of the actors had Stetsons and 10-gallon hats, but without complementing leather boots, the costumes wouldn’t be complete. People in the 1800s didn’t walk around in Nikes and Doc Martens.
After that quick wardrobe check, the cast got ready to rehearse the big opening number, “There’s No Business like Show Business.”
Saranac Lake High School students will perform “Annie Get Your Gun” tonight, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium. Student tickets are $8, and adult tickets are $10.
The Irvin Berlin musical shows a fictionalized version of world-renowned sharpshooter Annie Oakley, who performed stunts such as shooting cigarettes out of people’s mouths and hitting coins that were flipped into the air. One of her most famous acts involved facing away from targets, aiming a rifle over her shoulder and shooting distant bull’s-eyes while looking in a mirror.
After Oakley bested marksman Frank Butler in a competition, the two soon got married and started performing in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, a traveling show that highlighted sharpshooting, horse riding and frontier life.
In “Annie Get Your Gun,” Oakley and Butler are infatuated with each other, but they’re also in constant competition, with Butler even joining a rival wild west show at one point.
Director Bonnie Brewer and many of the cast members said the musical is lighthearted and fun, a significant departure from last year’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” which was about the banishment of Jews from Russia. Brewer said Drew Benware, the director of choral activities for SLHS, chose the play because of its comedic nature and because the songs suited the voices of current students.
“Last year it was very serious,” said Michael Miller, who’s playing Charlie Davenport, one of the managers for the Wild West show. “This year is similar to ‘Bye Bye Birdie,’ which we did a few years ago. It’s just fun and enjoyable for everyone.”
Despite the cheerful material, there was one concern going into the production.
“I’m was worried about some of the dated things in it,” Brewer said, referring to the song, “I’m an Indian, Too,” which was cut from the musical in the 1999 Broadway revival.
“They had to tone it back because they were very derogatory toward Native Americans,” Brewer said. “If you watch the movie, you’re appalled by it now, but it was made in 1950.”
Brewer said “Annie Get Your Gun” is supposed to be laid-back and entertaining, and the edited version doesn’t diminish the overall essence of the musical, whereas a play like “To Kill a Mockingbird” needs the controversial themes and language because that’s the point.
“This one’s not supposed to have a big message,” she said. “You’re just supposed to go out tapping your foot and singing the songs.”
Abbie Wolff, the senior who will play Oakley, said “Annie Get Your Gun” has plenty of memorable musical numbers.
“I think there’s some really great songs that people will recognize in this show: ‘Anything You Can Do,’ ‘No Business Like Show Business,’ ‘You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,'” she said.
Natalie Orman added that she didn’t realize how many songs come from the musical until she started performing them.
“No Business Like Show Business,” starts the musical off with a bang. It’s lively but also provides some exposition and characterization, introducing dead eyes, knife throwers and managers. The ladies kick in a chorus line, and the men do their best John Wayne walks. Niklas Dahlen, who’s playing Butler, offered one suggestion.
“If anyone has a cowboy hat,” he said, “please, actually tip it.”