Berks actors star in Annie Get Your Gun

Patriot photo by Scott Weldon
Cast of Fleetwood Community Theatre's "Annie Get Your Gun."
Patriot photo by Scott Weldon Cast of Fleetwood Community Theatre's "Annie Get Your Gun."

Fleetwood Community Theatre stages the Tony Award winning 1999 version of “Annie Get Your Gun” July 18, 19 and 20, starring Birdsboro, Fleetwood and other Berks County residents.

“Annie Oakley’s story was her journey, not to be better than anyone, just to be equal. And, how many people can relate to that struggle for equality in 2013?” asked director Santo D. Marabella.

Marabella explained that Annie Get Your Gun was originally produced in 1946, and then revived in 1966 and 1999. The Irvin Berlin melodies and book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields ran for a total of nearly 2,300 performances in all three productions – about 5.5 Broadway years, which Marabella noted was eight shows a week times 52 weeks.

“Not bad by any standard,” said Marabella. “It is always fun, but a bit of a challenge to present a classic such as Annie Get Your Gun. The fun part is usually that the melodies and story are so well known, while the challenge is making the piece accessible to a contemporary audience.”


Marabella saw, and enjoyed, the revised production on Broadway in 1999, on which FCT’s show is based.

“But, it wasn’t until I read the script a few months ago that it hit me, like a cool refreshing breeze on a hot and humid day – the message of Annie Get Your Gun for today’s audience is the struggle for equality,” he said. “Women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBT people ‘struggle’ for all types of equality: job, status, marriage, public access.”

Marabella said the audience will notice throughout their production, gentle and not so gentle, reminders of the “struggles” many have conquered and many continue to work to overcome.

“If this provokes you – in a positive or disturbing way – then, we have achieved our goal as the best art causes one to consider the same things differently,” said Marabella.

“Annie Get Your Gun is a classic musical,” said Visual Manager Tara Sands. “It has well known music, funny scenarios, and a relevant culture topic within a family friendly production.”

Sands also noted that Annie Get Your Gun is not a show performed a lot. Sands believes the last time the musical was performed in Berks County was in 1999 by Fleetwood High School.

According to the FCT President Brian Miller, its return to Broadway starred Bernadette Peters belting out the lyrics of Irving Berlin and the revised libretto by Peter Stone who reshaped the 1946 book to create a Wild West show-within-a-show that frames the ageless love story of sharpshooters Annie Oakley and Frank Butler. Stone has added a secondary romance between the younger sister of Frank’s bothersome assistant Dolly, and a boy who is (to Dolly’s horror) part Native American.

Written to Playbill, Peter Stone said, “The big challenge is taking a book that was wonderfully crafted for its time and make it wonderfully crafted for our time. ANNIE GET YOUR GUN bore little resemblance to a show you could do today, in respect to consistency of character, the relationships between people, the relevance of certain songs as they came in. Also, we were dealing with what is, frankly—well, I don’t want to use the term “politically incorrect,” though that’s the term that’s floating around these days. It was terribly insensitive, as we all were then, to Indians. It wasn’t the fault of anybody. But it had to be dealt with in a way that was heartfelt and not obvious.”

Miller wrote in an FCT release that Annie Get Your Gun is an enduring tale because its story is built on a universal theme: the struggle for equality.

“It is clearly Annie’s story, her journey to be acknowledged and valued for the woman and person she is. That it is set in a time (well over 130 some years ago) that none of us experienced directly, does not dilute its relevance or significance for today’s audience. It does challenge us to demonstrate modern meaning from another time, but provides many opportunities to do so throughout the play,” writes Miller.

When asked what does Fleetwood Community Theatre offer to the community, Sands responded, “We strive to be family oriented way of teaching and presenting theatrical productions.”

The FCT cast usually includes families - parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, even cousins - but they also strive to create an atmosphere of community and family among our casts.

“We do that by working together to build sets, find costumes, and market our shows. It takes a large group of dedicated people to create a production, and we appreciate everyone of our volunteers,” said Sands.

The Community Theatre’s production is an all ages cast with actors from Berks and Lehigh counties. Directed by Santo D. Marabella with Ken Dreistadt the show stars Kaleigh Limper, Birdboro, as Annie Oakley; Jon Schultz, Fleetwood, as Frank Butler and Todd Carpien, Allentown, as Buffalo Bill. Also featured in FCT’s Annie Get Your Gun are Stan Durlak as Charlie Davenport, Beck Malanios as Dolly Tate, John Fielding as Foster Wilson, Bob Barskey as Chief Sitting Bull, Rachel Rock as Winnie Tate, and Ryan Schlegel as Tommy Keeler.

This ensemble production will be held on the stage at Fleetwood Area High School and runs July 18, 19, and 20 at 7:30 p.m. and a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, July 20. Purchase tickets by calling 610-944-3610 or at Tickets purchased at the door are cash only sales. Doors open 30 minutes before show times.

Fleetwood Community Theatre was founded in 1988 by those who love the theatre, to teach others about loving the theatre. FCT is A Not-for-profit 501(c)(3) volunteer organization.