Female ingenuity the main attraction in State College Community Theatre‘s ‘Annie Get Your Gun’

Rachael Gigar is Annie and Matt Greer is love interest and sharpshooter competitor Frank Butler in the State College Community Theatre’s production of “Annie Get Your Gun.”
Rachael Gigar is Annie and Matt Greer is love interest and sharpshooter competitor Frank Butler in the State College Community Theatre’s production of “Annie Get Your Gun.” Photos provided

The State College Community Theatre will open its 60th anniversary season with the Broadway hit “Annie Get Your Gun.”

“Annie Get Your Gun” is a “Golden Age”-era musical — one created between 1940 and 1960. In 1946, Ethel Merman originated the role of Annie Oakley on Broadway and Betty Hutton starred in the 1950 MGM film. The 1999 revival gave the show a revitalization and connected this classic with a new generation.

The SCCT’s version “will draw an older crowd that will have the nostalgia from these previous versions,” said Jonathan Hetler, the show’s director. “However, it will be great to have young and old humming great tunes such as ‘No Business Like Show Business’ and ‘Anything You Can Do.’ ”

The story is a fictionalized version of the life of Annie Oakley, a sharpshooter born in 1860 who starred in “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” show. The musical features music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, and an original book by Dorothy Fields and her brother, Herbert Fields, as revised by Peter Stone.

Annie (Rachael Gigar) is the best shot around, and she manages to support her siblings by selling the game she hunts. When she’s discovered by Col. Buffalo Bill, he persuades the novel marksman to join his Wild West Show. It takes only one glance for her to fall head over heels for dashing shooting ace Frank Butler (Matt Greer), the show’s headliner. Annie does Butler one better, becoming the main attraction which, while good for business, is bad for romance. With his bruised male ego leading the way, Butler leaves to join a rival show but is ultimately pitted against Annie in a final shootout. Ultimately, the rousing finale becomes a testament to the power of female ingenuity.

The show is presented in a way that frames this timeless Western fairy tale as a “show within a show.”

“We set out to replicate what it may have been like to actually have been at one of Buffalo Bill’s ‘Wild West Shows,’ ” Hetler said. “For our tricks within the show, we have stayed true to the time period and used good old-fashioned theater magic to give us a ‘big top’ type of feel. It is a fantastic spectacle.”

Annie is seen as a character in history who helped to motivate women to nurture a sense of purpose and identity.

“I feel honored to be playing a role that embodies what the first feminist looked like in the late 19th century, a woman who knew she was good at something, a woman who didn’t want to stand in the background behind men, but also a woman who wants to be a woman,” Gigar said.

Greer said the production demonstrates a movement toward equality.

“If you pay attention, throughout the show there are lines and situations that allude to women’s inferiority and men’s inability to be ‘showed up by a woman,’ ” he said.

Gigar said the story behind the historical figure is that women can do anything they put their minds to.

“Annie Oakley didn’t have an easy road, and although the roads for women into professions like entertainment or even law and medicine are easier to travel today, you are likely to still encounter difficulties,” Gigar said. “I think Annie Oakley reminds all women to just keep your eyes on the goal and you will succeed.”