A review by Lauren Morgan

Staff Writer

What's the best way to get to Broadway from Gwinnett County? Take a plane? Trek downtown to a to a show at the Fox Theatre?

Nope. Just head to the Aurora Theatre to see "Annie Get Your Gun," playing Thursdays through Sundays until Sept. 9.

When a traveling Wild West show visits her town, Annie Oakley enters a shooting contest, wins, and is asked to join the show. She has fallen in love with the star of the show, Frank Butler, and agrees to join, although she has no idea what show business is until she's informed by the classic song "There's No Business Like Show Business." Over the course of the musical, Frank starts to fall for Annie, but his ego is bruised and he becomes jealous when Annie becomes a star.

Natasha Drena is dreamy as Annie Oakley. She's worthy of the role, which has been played by stars such as Bernadette Peters and Reba McIntyre. Drena recently portrayed Judy Garland in Georgia Ensemble Theatre's "Beyond the Rainbow," and it's easy to see why that show sold out. Her voice is truly spell-binding, and it's hard to tell she's a California girl behind Oakley's thick Southern accent. This is Drena's first show at the Aurora.

Backing up Drena is a strong supporting cast. Playing the role of Frank is Rob Lawhorn, who is no stranger to the Aurora. He and Drena have great chemistry and their rendition of "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" is fantastically funny.

Farrel Capek, Autumn Lowery and Corrigan Sauers are adorable as Annie's younger siblings Nellie, Jessie and Li'l Jake. Corrigan is cute enough to have his face on a Life cereal box, and Farrel and Autumn are two young actresses to keep an eye on as they rise in the theater scene.

As is Aurora tradition, the theater's Producing Artistic Director Anthony Rodriguez had a role in the show as Buffalo Bill. The role suited Rodriguez well, since he is an outgoing, lively businessman when he's not on the stage - a "huckster" is the title he prefers.

Sims Lamason and Ricardo Aponte play smitten young couple Winnie Tate and Tommy Keeler, and their scenes together are charming. Their storyline is a great break from the tension between Annie and Frank.

Comedic relief also comes from Charlie Davenport (Geoff "Googie" Uterhardt), Dolly Tate (Barbara Cole Uterhardt) and Chief Sitting Bull (Spencer G. Stephens). Two words: too funny.

Only one complaint about Aurora's "Annie Get Your Gun:" for a play that's based on the most famous sharp shooter in history, the shooting wasn't very realistic. Yes, the play is indoors, and yes, musicals aren't supposed to be realistic, but rifles do buck when fired and the timing was a bit off on the "pows" from the band.

However, the other technical elements make the show feel almost like visiting the circus, in a good way.

If you're not familiar with the history of Annie Oakley, you'll have to see the show to find out what happens with these two spur-crossed lovers.

For more information on tickets and showtimes, call 678-226-6222 or visit www.auroratheatre.com.

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