'Annie Get Your Gun' set to music in Farmington

Thursday , July 24, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Standard-Examiner correspondent

There’s no business like show business, especially when the show is Buffalo Bill’s portrayal of the Wild West.

One of the best-known performers in the exhibition, which toured during the late 1800s, was Annie Oakley, a sharpshooter who could hit dimes in midair and knock ashes off cigarettes.

“The things she did were almost superhuman. One of her favorite tricks was to hit a playing card while it was being held sideways, and then she could shoot it three more times before it hit the ground. No one expected a woman to be able to shoot like that,” Farmington resident Norma Sturgeon said.

Sturgeon, a retired drama teacher, is directing a community production of “Annie Get Your Gun,” based on Oakley’s life. She directed the nonmusical version once as a teacher at Davis High School.

“This is the musical version and the music of Irving Berlin is just timeless. He was a genius, self-taught. This is also a revival version. The old one was great, but I think people will like this even better,” she said.

Sturgeon and producer James Findlay, of Farmington, are looking forward to putting on the show indoors instead of at a park as has been done in the past.

“Having it outside creates some limitations with sound and light. Being inside will be really nice,” Findlay said.

It is also a more comfortable environment. “We usually hold it at the park, but this time we decided to move it inside because of the heat and the mosquitoes,” said Farmington city arts and special events coordinator Stefanie Gallagher.

Sturgeon is pleased with the talented performers. “I think it is going to be one of the best shows I have directed. It is a very gifted cast,” she said.

Findlay agrees that this is a landmark production. “We have a really terrific production crew as well. This has been one of our best years for things like costuming, set design and fundraising. Everything has really been top-notch.”

The real Annie Oakley grew up in extreme poverty. Her circumstances forced her to start hunting and trapping at the age of 8 to help feed her widowed mother and siblings.

Her innate talent was apparent from the start, and she was able to pay off the mortgage to her mother’s farm by the time she was 15 by selling the game she hunted.

At 15, Oakley, standing 5 feet tall, met the man who would become her husband when she beat him in a shooting match. Her competitor and soon-to-be suitor was traveling show marksman Frank Butler. The two married in 1876 and joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in 1885.

The musical is a fictionalized version of Oakley and Butler’s romance, starting out with the two of them already members of Buffalo Bill’s show, trying to overcome their egos and find love.

“It plays off traditional gender stereotypes. Annie Oakley really broke the mold. In some ways, it is a story about Frank coming to terms with the fact that he has fallen in love with a woman who is his equal, and how he and Annie learn that in relationships you sometimes have to sacrifice a bit of your ego to make it work. The play doesn’t take itself very seriously, so it is a lot of fun. There will be a few surprise theatrics as well that the audience will enjoy,” Findlay said.

Sturgeon said she admires the real Annie Oakley and likes the message of this play. “Of course, the story takes liberties, but the fact is that it is about a real person who used her talents to come up from nothing and succeed and really be something. You have to admire what she was able to accomplish. She was just a natural talent,” she said.

Keeping the arts alive is important to Sturgeon.

“I think it elevates a community to have a production of this nature and to have the arts. It gives opportunities to people of all ages to express and develop their talents. It is a wonderful group effort. People give their time freely with no reward except the opportunity to create. I think the creative process is so fulfilling. Audience members come from as far away as Lehi and Ogden because they want to be a part of it.”


WHAT: “Annie Get Your Gun”

WHEN: 7 p.m. July 29-Aug 4, every evening except Sunday

WHERE: Farmington Community Art Center, 120 S. Main St.

TICKETS: $5/advance, $6/door, call 801-451-0953

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