Behind the Scenes of Annie Get Your Gun at the Young Vic

 Punters bask in September sunshine outside the Young Vic last Friday

Last Friday, we were lucky enough to be invited backstage at the Young Vic to hear about preparations for their exciting new musical, Annie Get Your Gun.

We met the Young Vic’s Artistic Director, David Lan, who, after 10 years in the job, still speaks with infectious enthusiasm about the theatre and the show currently in rehearsals.

David is clear about the Young Vic’s brief. “Whatever we do, it has to give somebody the chance to do something they’ve never done before. Something a little bit adventurous, a little bit ambitious. There needs to be a sense of going out on a limb.”

The Young Vic is all about exploration, experiments and collaboration, says David. In the last six years, the theatre (originally created to cater for the younger members of Laurence Olivier’s Royal National Theatre) has produced some brilliant musicals. Sell-out Simply Heavenly in 2003 transferred to the West End; The Magic Flute won an Olivier Award; 2008′s Street Scene won an Evening Standard Award…

Another highly successful show for the Young Vic was Brecht’s Good Soul of Szechuan, directed by Richard Jones, starring Jane Horrocks. Towards the end of the run, David tells us, Jane came to him and asked if they could continue performing the show. Of course, the Young Vic had other commitments. But Jane was persistent: “I want to come back in with Richard Jones, and do a show that just keeps on going…”

This is the background to the hotly anticipated Annie Get Your Gun, being performed at the Young Vic this October after 17 years’ absence from the West End.

David takes us to the auditorium; what he believes is one of the most important parts of the Young Vic. “Whatever we do, we’re always able to completely reconfigure the auditorium,” he explains. Annie Get Your Gun will be played on a wide proscenium stage; the audience will sit in unnumbered seats in the stalls and the circle, and, if tickets are in demand, in the technical gallery.

One of the Annie Get Your Gun posters on the Young Vic's outside wall

From the tantalising view of techies building the new staging, we’re then taken to the rehearsal rooms, to get an even sweeter taste of the show to come.

Among the well-read Grazia magazines, discarded coffee cups and open, oversized handbags spilling keys, mobile phones and books onto the floor are about 15 cast members, standing in a group around a piano. Three or four of them are expertly twirling plastic pistols around their fingers while they wait for their cues.

A couple are wearing cowboy boots; one girl is in a gingham dress. But whether these are a nod to the show they’re rehearsing or a fashion choice is unclear. Jane Horrocks is also there, working away from the group, looking elegantly dishevelled and diminutive in a denim skirt.

When they start singing, though, the scruffiness of the ripped jeans, socks-no-shoes, beanies and old t-shirts vanishes behind a powerful wall of Irving Berlin’s sumptuous music. They work through a medley of tunes (There’s No Business… They Say It’s Wonderful, and so on…) that sounds like a Finale; the director wants them to pay particular attention to the dynamics. Then we hear a technically trickier song, I Got The Sun in the Morning, which has some of the guys at the back holding their ears in an effort to perfect their harmonies.

All too soon, it’s over, and we’re outside the theatre wishing we were able to see the whole show. We can’t wait to see how director Richard Jones has reworked this American classic for a modern London audience: David warned us it was full of charm, and surprisingly moving. And we’re really excited about seeing Jane Horrocks in the lead role come October…

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  1. Lilac says:

    This sounds great, love the 50s style!

  2. Mr Hewitt says:

    Where to begin…. The last production of Annie Get Your Gun I saw was in 2005, the national tour (which closed early) and I thought this new production starring Jane Horricks and directed by Richard Jones could not worse than the dreadful touring version… I was wrong.

    I am not sure in what ‘era’ this production has been set, but I am assuming none of the creative team do either. This has got to be one of the ugliest scenic designs (Ultz) ever to be put onto the London stage. We are forced to look at a set consisting of brown laminated walls for the entire evening. The only slight change is when some fabric drops are released from the paneled ceiling (completely covered) which can only be described as a room upholstered with a 5 year olds pajama’s. I was very tempted to leave a note in the ‘feedback box’ saying, “get a new scenic designer ASAP”. The lighting is not much better. I do sympathize a little with Mimi Jordan Sherin as there is NO space above the stage to hang anything as it is completely covered with roof tiles. Then again how can a lighting designer even contemplate giving into this scenic design. I am not even going to bother going into any details, anyone lighting the actors with bright flood lights from the front of the stage is just mean.

    Phillipe Giraudeau’s staging of “Sun In The Morning And The Moon At Night” is the worst choreography EVER created! The cast look so embarrassed and understandably – I would have faked an injury to get out of the number before the 1st preview. The producer should cut the choreographer’s fee in half as there is no choreography.

    Jane Horricks copes with the role but her voice is no where near strong enough. As she said on TV she sings it as Judy Garland but she simply just doesn’t have enough power. Her characterization starts off well but in ACT 2 we just end up with ‘Bubbles’ from Ab Fab. One great thing about the touring production was the wonderful Rebecca Thornhill who played Annie. The only saving grace in this production in the fantastic, magnetic Julian Ovendon.

    I have no idea what the point is of doing a NEW production of this fantastic show is when all we are seeing is a badly directed, poorly designed product. I really feel sorry for the cast.

    • Zoe J. Griffiths says:

      Wow – sorry to hear you disliked it so much, Mr Hewitt. What a shame. I wonder if it will improve through previews??

      We haven’t seen it yet, so can’t comment… I wonder if any other readers have seen it and have different views? Let us know!

  3. ian smith says:

    have just seen this show,and must agree with mr hewitt,this is one of the worst designed and choreographed shows i have seen..truly awful,they had a partial door who,s only purpose is to block the view of the stage if you are not sitting in the centre,dancing non existent,is this what happens when you get an opera director to direct a stage play?however i disagree over jane horrocks who at times was keeping it from sinking,and as for mr ovendons charisma,i have yet to locate it,having said all that the songs are good.i have had worse evenings,i feel sorry for the cast.

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