REVIEW of Ojai ACT’s “Annie Get Your Gun” By Vivien Latham When Jerome Kern was asked where in American music would he place Irving Berlin, he replied that he "has no place in American music - he IS American music." Berlin's score of "Annie Get Your Gun" – now playing at Ojai ACT through July 31 -- is considered by many to be his best, not just because of the number of hit songs in it, but because they combine character and plot development. ﷯t is one of Berlin's most successful and critically-acclaimed musicals, and winner of two Tony Awards. It’s a show that is pure Americana, fittingly opening on Fourth of July weekend, America's birthday. “The majority of the characters and relationships in the show are based on real historical people and events from the American Wild West era,” said Director Tracey Williams Sutton. It features a Wild West traveling show, set in a time when they were as popular as rock shows are today. Audiences will enjoy a rousing and rip-roaring show, full of humor, romance, and lively musical numbers. A production of this size is always a challenge for smaller theaters, but Director Sutton uses the stage to good effect. In the dark, a lone male voice starts to sing "There's No Business Like Show Business," and the lights come up on Butler (Scott White), as Buffalo Bill (Cecil Sutton) and the Ensemble join in. Buffalo Bill introduces the Wild West Show, with his 'Big Top' creatively represented by large, colorful ribbons. Sutton, an actor of considerable range and talent, looks very much like the real Buffalo Bill, and plays the flamboyant showman with a combination of charm and a sly shrewdness. ﷯The star of the Wild West show is the handsome, womanizing Frank Butler. After accepting a $100 bet on a shooting match from hotel owner Foster Wilson (played with comical apoplexy by Bill Spellman), he meets his young rival Annie Oakley (Holly Sewell), and his amusement turns to fury when she beats him easily. Reluctantly, he joins Cody and the show's manager, Charlie Davenport (Michael McCarthy), in persuading Annie to join their troupe in the tongue-in-cheek salute to the grit and glamor of Show Biz ("There's No Business Like Show Business"). Tall, broad, handsome, and with a strong, dramatic tenor voice, White effortlessly portrays both the competitive spirit and tender affection he feels for Annie, as he finally admits he is falling in love ("My Defenses Are Down"). Sewell, who was last seen as Sally Bowles in Ojai ACT's "Cabaret," eschews the often predictable characterization of Annie as a "regular barrelhouse sort of dame" (as described by Betty Hutton, who starred in the MGM film). Instead, Sewell plays Annie as both naive and intelligent, vulnerable yet stubborn and sassy. Her transition from the dirty and unkempt backwoods girl to the (slightly) more refined and worldly Annie is seamless. Annie's predicament in wanting to win the man she loves without giving up her independence is one to which all women can relate. She laments about her dilemma in the delightful "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun." The battle of the sexes culminates in the richly comic "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better." 
 The supporting cast includes Buddy Wilds as Pawnee Bill, Armando Hernandez as Chief Sitting Bull, Denise Heller as Dolly Tate, Ezra Eells as Tommy Keeler, and Haley Weed as Winnie Tate. Each makes the most of his or her part, with Eells showcasing his athletic dancing skills in the duet "Who Do You Love, I Hope?" with Weed. Hernandez as Sitting Bull delivers some of the show's funniest lines with perfect deadpan delivery. The Ensemble dances are executed with enthusiasm and energy, and Annie's younger siblings are played with a winning charm, especially in the number "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly." Patrons should arrive early to avoid missing the 10-minute pre-show presented by Pawnee Bill. It is a fascinating look at the real life figures in the play, with photos and a rare silent movie clip of Annie Oakley shooting at glass balls, filmed by Thomas Edison. The show runs through July 31 at Ojai ACT, 113 S. Montgomery St.; at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20 general, $18 for seniors and Art Center members and $15 for students. Reserve your seat at 640-8797 or online: www.OjaiACT.org. It plays at the Ojai Art Center, 113 S. Montgomery St, through June 5 at 7pm Fridays and Saturdays; 2pm Sundays. Tickets are $15 general; $12 for students, seniors, and Art Center members. Call 640-8797 for tickets and information or visit www.OjaiACT.org