THIS revival of a musical classic is gunning for greatness.
So fresh off the blocks is the new show that Sunderland is only the second date on its tour, yet it already has the right ingredients to fire up the crowds.
A red and white big top festoons the stage as the audience is invited to roll up, roll up and enjoy the spectacle of ace female sharp-shooter Annie Oakley in this clever show-within-a-show format.
Emma Williams is a delightfully feisty leading lady in the eponymous role, a woman with more girl power than the Spice Girls put together.
From her deliberately comic hillbilly accent to her rootin’ tootin’ zest for life and gun-slinging prowess, she commands the stage. Heck, she can even hang off a trapeze and hit the bull’s eye, every time.
There’s only one thing that can make this woman go weak at the knees: the dashing Frank Butler, played by Jason Donovan.
The chemistry between the pair is evident, though I felt the evolution of their rivalry into romance could have done with a little more padding plot-wise.
Jason, though thoroughly enjoyable to watch, didn’t always match up to sassy Emma’s outstanding vocals in Act One, but Act two proved a different story. Their version of Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better, was outstanding. It was a joy to spectate their fiercely competitive sides sizzle as they battled it out for the title of world champion sharp-shooter.
How Emma holds on to a particularly lengthy note in this vocal sparring match I will never know - but it certainly earned its own round of applause.
Irving Berlin’s glorious score is another highlight of the piece and the fact this show hasn’t toured professionally for a number of years means we’ve been missing out on some of musical theatre’s catchiest tunes, such as the aforementioned Anything You Can Do and There’s No Business Like Show Business.
The latter kicks off the piece with finale-esque flair and is repeated throughout, whisking Wearside to the Wild West in foot-stompingly slick style.