Monday, 18 December 2017

Jason Donovan: an all-American success

YOU can’t help but wonder, as a beaming Jason Donovan strides on to the stage in frock coat and stetson, his arms swinging in hoe-down fashion, whether he would have reached the same vertiginous heights as Kylie had he managed to stay clear of the drugs.

He can sing, dance, act — his American accent in this production is faultless — and he certainly has a certain charismatic presence on stage. Does he have deep-seated regrets? Does his sunny, hard-working, family-man demeanour conceal demons that still occasionally rear their ugly heads?

By the end of the show none of this matters, because he wins the audience round with the sheer buoyancy of his personality. If anything, his fall from grace makes him more human, and all the more likeable for it.

This musical by Irving Berlin was the thrill of post Second World War Broadway, and though the music is showing its age there are still enough classics to keep the show bouncing along, particularly the opening number There’s No Business Like Show Business, which returns as a constantly recurring backdrop refrain to the story.

Annie Get Your Gun is based on the true story of sharpshooter Phoebe Ann Moses, AKA Annie Oakley, who joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show where she met and fell in love with rival marksman Frank Butler.

Emma Williams makes a full-blooded, feisty Annie and though the first half is a little slow, the chemistry between her and Frank is tangible. It’s a love story with a feminist twist and, like all sensible women, Annie realises she’ll have to act a bit blonde if she wants to bag her man. But on the way she puts up a good fight, culminating in a truly entertaining and delightful duet, Anything You Can Do with Donovan.

Annie Get Your Gun
New Theatre, Oxford
• Continues to Saturday. Go to www.atgtickets.com for tickets.

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