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First produced at the Imperial Theatre on May 16, 1946, with Ethel Merman as "Annie" and Ray Middleton as "Frank".

The heroine is a rough and tumble backwoods girl who is the star of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and handy with a rifle. We first meet up with her at Wilson House, a summer hotel on the outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio. She betrays that she is an uncultivated female who only knows to do that which comes naturally to her ("Doin' What Comes Natur'lly"). She soon meets up with Frank Butler of Pawnee Bill's Show. He is a big, sentimental fellow who is attracted only to sweet and demure girls ("The Girl That I Marry"). Annie finds Frank appealing, but she lacks the gift of getting men to become interested in her ("You Can't Get a Man With a Gun"). But they have one thing in common, show business, and with Buffalo Bill they proceed to sing its praises ("There's No Business Like Show Business").

Six weeks have passed. The scene shifts to a Pullman car of an Overland train speeding to Minneapolis. By now Frank and Annie have begun to manifest an interest in this thing called love ("They Say It's Wonderful"). At the Arena Frank confesses that he has begun to succomb to Annie's vigorous charms ("My Defenses Are Down").

A Wild West Show then takes place within the Arena. The programme includes a Drum Dance, a Ceremonial Chant and Annie appearing as an Indian squaw ("I'm an Indian, Too").

The romance of Annie and Frank, however, encounters difficulties by virtue of the fact that they are rivals, each being a member of a different Wild West company. Annie bemoans the fact that she has been weak enough to fall for Frank ("I Got Lost in His Arms"), and tries finding consolation in the fact that she has a good many things to be happy over, even if love is denied her ("I Got the Sun in the Morning"). But their problems find a near resolution when the two Wild West Shows merge into a single outfit, and Frank and Annie become members of the same company. There is still a good deal of competition between them ("Anything You Can Do"), but the competition is now good-natured.

Annie Get Your Gun was the greatest box-office triumph of Irving Berlin's rich Broadway career; it is his only musical to achieve an initial run of more than one thousand performances. The score is his best and most varied for the theatre, yielding as it does at least hallf a dozen substantial song hits. (One of these, "Show Business", has since become the unofficial anthem of the American theatre.) But brilliant and inventive though were Berlin's melodies and lyrics, his was by no means the only salient contribution to a remarkable production. Mention should also be made of Ethel Merman's compelling and irresistible performance as Annie; Joshua Logan's imaginative staging; and the colourful choreography of Helen Tamiris.

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This document was originally published in The Complete Book of Light Opera. Mark Lubbock. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1962. pp. 888-9.


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