Association of Community Theatre


Romiley Operatic Society

Director: Michael Jones-McCaw

Musical Director: Claire Sweeney

Choreography: Tracy Harper

Irving Berlin’s show, loosely based on the real characters of sharp shooters, Annie Oakley and Frank Butler, was first seen in 1946. It has been presented by most operatic societies, but then fell out of favour. In 1999 the score and libretto were revived and revised with Bernadette Peters taking the lead on Broadway. The revival is now the licensed show for community theatre, but what a fabulous reworking of Berlin’s much loved musical this is.


The show is now a “show within a show” set in Buffalo Bill’s big top. It is where the love story between Annie Oakley and Frank Butler is retold by the celebrated showman, Bill Cody. As the circus performers enter and exit, Frank Butler sings “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, which is now the signature number of the show.


Scenic Projects provided a set that kept the audience in the circus tent, and the other scenery allowed the Oakley and Butler courtship to be told without confusion. All the backstage crew set and struck without any hitch.


Matt Kayes and Dan Thompson’s light and sound designs created atmosphere and added to the story development. Charades immaculate costumes set the period with Nicola Squares supervising the make-up, completing the very pleasing character presentation.


The direction brought out the personalities of the characters, making the highs, and lows, of their romance more entertaining. The choreography complemented the concept and was delivered enthusiastically. The sheer magic of Berlin’s score, which was well read and played, cemented the action.


The cast were as a travelling group of troubadours bringing about a colourful, entertaining, theatrical event. There was Michael Twigg, as Charlie Davenport, Peter Bowler, as Foster Wilson, Phil Gibbons, as Pawnee Bill, Chris Blodwell, as Chief Sitting Bull, and Gareth Jones, as impresario, Buffalo Bill.  They entertained and gave credibility to the fast moving musical drama.


Frank Butler’s “Debbie Magee” is his assistant, Dolly Tate. Colette Desborough found all the humour and was suitably protective of her sister, Winnie. Playing Winnie was Kathryn Howe who displayed the showgirl’s frustrations over her love for Tommy Keeler. As Tommy, Ben Drane was the lovelorn suitor. Their “Who Do You Love, I Hope” was playfully delivered.


There are big cowboy boots to fill. Playing Frank Butler, Gary Jones-McCaw filled them admirably. Frank falls for the rough and tumble girl although pride splits them apart, but the love brings them back together. Gary, as the trick shooting showman, sang and danced in the true matinée idol style much to the audience’s approval.


Mr Butler is knocked of his perch, professionally and personally, by Annie Oakley. “Doin’ What Comes Naturally”, Kate Shaw gave an energized, sparkling performance, totally encompassing the role. Assisting Annie are her sisters and brother. Nellie, Jessica Haslam, Jessie, Natalia Jacques and Little Jake, Toby Fullman. They were not just stage dressing, they created strong, endearing characters.


This show has been reborn and I believe can now stand amongst the latest and best that the West End has to offer.