The effect of the curtains, which open horizontally as though exposing a cinema screen, the widescreen-dimensioned stage and the use of video footage help create that atmosphere, but it is the use of four pianos to play Berlin’s catchy score that really adds the old movie quality, sounding a touch like the accompaniment to a silent film.
Amid this big screen routine, director Richard Jones adds a few contrasting theatrical flourishes – entrances through the auditorium and witty use of conveyor belts – to tell the classic tale of sure shot Annie Oakley and her troubled love affair.
Jane Horrocks returns to the Young Vic after enjoying her turn in The Good Soul Of Szechuan last year, to play the womanly weapon wizard. She is a scruffy, scrawny, tomboy adorned with carcasses rather than shooting medals when she first sets eyes on sharp shooter Frank Butler, who in the hands of Julian Ovenden, is a slick, clean cut cowboy who has more women flocking around him than James Bond in a chocolate suit.
Their story, which sees Annie surpassing Frank in the gun-toting stakes, sparking all manner of jealousy in the tassel-shirted alpha male, sees the couple part until they realise they cannot live without each other, and that Cupid’s arrow – or in their cases, bullet – has hit them both unerringly through the centre of the heart.
The book, by Herbert and Dorothy Fields, with a few additional modern flourishes added by April De Angelis, has a collection of the West End’s cheesiest puns, providing laughs I felt both cheap and delighted about for indulging in, like Christmas cracker gags.