WINSTON — Take a step back in time this week with the Riverbend Live! Youth Theater as they present “Annie Get Your Gun.”
Based on the 1999 Broadway revival of the 1946 musical, the story follows rough-and-tumble Annie Oakley (Kyra Lee) and Frank Butler (Lucas VanDermark), who meet when Oakley beats Butler in a sharpshooting contest at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Both consider themselves the best sharpshooters in the world and must traverse between their competitive natures and their blossoming love for each other.
“It’s been a dream of mine for a really long time to just be involved in any capacity,” Director Ian Hutchins said. “It’s one of those classic shows. The show itself is also really important for the community. It’s not something that’s so fanciful that it’s inapplicable to the audience.”
Last year, the group performed “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” which Hutchins described as fantastically whimsical. This year, the production brings a more realistic style as the almost 25-member cast reenacts the fictionalized version of the real-life sharpshooter Oakley.
“You may not know it but you may know some of the songs like ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’ and ‘Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better,’” Hutchins said. “It’s more of a rural story based on real people. It’s the chemistry and the vocals of the shows that are more highlight versus sets and character acting.”
This year’s cast ranges in age from 8 to 18 and includes newcomers and program veterans alike.
This will be 18-year-old Kyra Lee’s last show with the youth theater. She has been with the program for 11 years and is excited to tackle the lead role, Annie.
“My character is just kind of like this random country person that lives in the middle of nowhere and gets money by shooting birds and rabbits and all that stuff, and then I get asked to compete against Frank,” Lee said. “And then I get pulled into big show business and I have to learn about show business and how to act like a lady and I end up falling in love with Frank.”
“The role of Annie is just a powerhouse, I mean she is the title role and I couldn’t have thought of doing it with anyone else but Kyra,” Hutchins said. “Seeing her really step into her own, confidence wise, to get to this level has been really personally satisfying.”
When Butler and Oakley are not on stage competing or falling for each other, secondary act Tommy Keeler (Brady Evans) and his assistant Winnie Tate (Kambree Lee) make waves by running off and getting married.
“The issue is that me and Winnie are in love but her sister doesn’t like (Tommy) very much, on account of (Tommy) being one half Native American,” Evans said.
The issue of race is one Hutchins said changed from the play’s original script when it was revised in 1999, switching to a conversation about race rather than blatant racism.
One possible concern Hutchins addressed was the use of prop guns in a youth production.
“We are teaching what it means to have a prop gun in a show, ‘cause there are plenty of other children’s shows with guns,” Hutchins said. “This (show) demonstrates (guns) as something for hunting — which is what Annie kind of gets her living off of at the beginning of the show — and then onto a talent and a skill of shooting clay pigeons, targets and things like that. We teach the kids that even if it’s a fake gun with an orange tip, you should never point it at somebody or wield it around like crazy. It’s something to be respected and not taken lightly.”
“Annie Get Your Gun” will begin at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Winston’s Riverbend Park. Guests are invited to bring blankets and lawn chairs.
Food vendors will have food and drink available for purchase, but guests are also welcome to bring their own. Pets and smoking are not allowed at the venue.
“I hope that (the audience) sees that we work hard out here and that they keep supporting us so that we can do many more years of this because all the kids really, really like it and its a lot of fun and a big learning experience,” Kyra Lee said.