"It's one of those shows everyone knows but nobody goes to," muttered the young audience member seated in the row behind. This assertion was pretty accurate on Wednesday evening when an outside temperature of 27°C (practically unheard of in these here parts) limited the number of walk-up sales for the Irving Berlin musical classic.
The Jason Donovan "carrot" did not appear to get the bums on seats either, a feat he has been achieving for much of his 25-year showbiz career. Since his star turn in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, he has had some musical hits (in Priscilla Queen Of The Desert's London incarnation) and some colossal misses (as a lamentable Captain Von Trapp). He managed to just about get away with it as sharpshooter Frank Butler.
As love interest Frank Butler, however, Donovan was far less successful. As wild gal Annie Oakley set eyes on Butler and visibly swooned, suspension of disbelief was mandatory and that is no slight on Emma Williams' cracking portrayal of feisty proto-feminist Oakley.
In fact, the moment with the most sexual chemistry was when Oakley imaginined her reunion with Butler and acted out both male and female romantic leads.
Jonathan Wilkes will be playing Butler in the performances tonight and tomorrow and it will be interesting to see if he can inject some much-needed va va voom to the couple's burgeoning fling. (It seems Donovan has an appearance at Hampton Court Palace performing alongside fellow '80s pin-up Rick Astley - you really couldn't make that up.)
Singalong number There's No Business Like Show Business got plenty of toes tapping, but it was Williams (a dead ringer for a young Shirley MacLaine) singing Anything You Can Do that earned this charismatic touring show its fourth star.