On Jan. 26, when Reba McEntire joins the Broadway cast of Annie Get Your Gun at the Marquis Theatre, Annie Oakley will be what perhaps she should have been since the original 1946 staging of the Irving Berlin musical: A country gal.
Those who have heard the promotional sampler recording of McEntire, or seen her on TV singing "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun" or "I Got Lost in His Arms," have been knocked out by the country-music star's genuine Southern twang, her pipes, her natural ease with the material.
McEntire's casting has been an open secret for what seems like a year. She takes on the sharpshooter role previously played in the new revival by Bernadette Peters, Susan Lucci and Cheryl Ladd. Ethel Merman, of course, originated the role, and Betty Hutton played the film. McEntire, making her Broadway debut, is expected to continue in the role to May 27.
Producers Barry and Fran Weissler have reportedly been pursuing McEntire for some time. The red-haired McEntire is routinely regarded as the biggest female singer in country music. She began pursuing an acting career in the early '90s, appearing in a string of television movies and the occasional film, often executive producing the TV programs in which she appeared. In the 1995 television film, "Buffalo Girls," McEntire actually played Annie Oakley. The Broadway staging of the classic Irving Berlin musical was dark Sept. 3-5, 2000, to allow for the cast changeover of Peters and Ladd. The new cast also had a slightly different score to sing: the "Entr'acte" and "I'll Share It All With You" (for characters Winnie and Tommy) were cut in an effort to streamline the narrative. This cut reflects the show as it is seen on the current tour, starring Marilu Henner.
Graciela Daniele staged Annie Get Your Gun and co choreographed it with Jeff Calhoun. The book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields was altered by Peter Stone to erase any offensive references to Native Americans.
Tom Wopat was the revival's original Frank Butler, followed by Patrick Cassidy.
Barrett's voice made audiences swoon in the revival of Chicago (playing Flynn) and the Encores! staging of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.
Annie Get Your Gun also stars Conrad John Schuck (of "McMillan and Wife" and Broadway's Annie) as Buffalo Bill and Larry Storch (of "F Troop" fame) as Sitting Bull. Also featured ar Valerie Wright, Peter Marx, Gerry Vichi, Claci Miller and Eric Sciotto.
Ladd and Cassidy's final performance in the revival was Jan. 25.
Annie Get Your Gun was songwriter Irving Berlin's biggest hit, running 1,147 performances in its original run. The revival, first seen in fall 1998 in Washington DC before opening on Broadway in 1999, retains most of the 1946 score: "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly," "Lost in His Arms," "Anything You Can Do," "My Defenses Are Down," "Who Do You Love, I Hope," "There's No Business Like Show Business," "The Girl That I Marry" and more.
As of Jan. 26, top ticket price is $85 for all performances. The Marquis Theatre is at 1535 Broadway at 45th Street. For information, call (212) 307-4100.