First Impressions: Annie Get Your Gun, Imperial Theatre, New York (1946)

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The Independent Culture

A good professional Broadway musical. Annie Get Your Gun has a pleasant score by Irving Berlin and it has Ethel Merman to roll her eyes and to shout down the rafters. The colours are pretty, the dancing is amiable and unaffected, and Broadway by this time is well used to a book which doesn't get anywhere in particular. Annie, in short, is an agreeable evening on the town.

By now, Miss Merman is regarded as heaven's gift to the musical show, and there is nothing about the new one to detract from that reputation. They have given her the part of Annie Oakley and Miss Merman is deadly with a rifle over her shoulder. She can scream out the air of a song so that the building trembles; and she can be initiated into an Indian tribe in such a way the event is singularly funny. Herbert and Dorothy Fields, as librettists, quite often have left her working in something of a void, but she has worked there before and can handle the situation adequately. Her inflections give a leering note to even sedate lyrics, and the toss of her head would be a credit to Bill's show, as it is to that of Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Mr Berlin's return to home ground is news of high and important order. There is nothing like "White Christmas" or "Easter Parade" among them, but several which have a place a bracket or so below. "They Say It's Wonderful" is the love song, and that will be heard around; and "Moonshine Lullaby," "Show Business" and "Sun in the Morning" all are good. In any Merman show the other members of the acting company habitually take on the harassed air of the losing horses in a steeplechase. Ray Middleton is Frank Butler, the lady's rival and sweetheart, offering a voice to Mr Berlin and no great acting ability otherwise. The chorus is pleasant to look upon, the orchestrations are good, and if there are abrupt pauses with some frequency – well, Miss Merman must change costumes.

Lewis Nichols - 'The New York Times'