The joyous touring production of Annie Get Your Gun certainly hits its target – and in more ways than one. For Ian Talbot’s production of this 1946 musicalized tale of the life of the sharpshooter Annie Oakley (set at the turn of the 20th century), follows Peter Stone’s revision of the libretto for the 1999 Broadway revival. This updated version places Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show at the heart of the action with an onstage band under a colourful big top, with Norman Pace’s knee-high booted winsome Bill introducing the characters at the start and informing the audience that the show will follow the romance between Annie Oakley and fellow target shooter Frank Butler. Each scene is rapidly moved on as part of the action by William Oxborrow’s Charlie Davenport, manager of the Wild West show, telling the company to set up for the next scene and giving the audience the context of its location and premise. Unlike the recent version of Show Boat – and various other shows of that era which need editorial work – it’s a refreshing change to see a revised edition of a show that makes it more accessible for these times.

However, the pure joy of watching Annie Get Your Gun is listening to Irving Berlin’s superlative score. From the opening ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’ – which is used as a theme in the show and referenced throughout – it’s a non-stop tour of American popular music. Stepping into indisposed leading lady Emma Williams’ shoes, understudy Natalie Day’s performance as heroine Annie is a well-judged ‘slow burn’ from the uncouth boyish charm of the awkward yet innocent Annie ‘Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly’ with no awareness of social behaviour, to a girl who grows in confidence and awareness. Annie learns the hard way that ‘You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun’ as she initially loses Frank, but then finds ‘The Sun In The Morning’ in another well-staged Berlin number. Jason Donovan’s Frank Butler is a man’s man who has to be top dog – and there is a certain charm to him that suits the part although he lacks charisma and vocal surety in solos at times. Donovan’s best moments are opposite Day in the beautiful first-half duet ‘They Say It’s Wonderful’ and in Annie and Frank’s competitive yet fun ‘Anything You Can Do’, Frank having seemingly eschewed the neanderthal attitude towards women shown earlier on.

The new context of ‘a show within a show’ rids Annie Get Your Gun of most of its former references to American Indians, although the romantic subplot refers to Lorna Want’s Winnie Tate romancing Yiftach Mizrahi’s ‘half-Indian’ Tommy Keeler. This young couple try to escape the watch of Winnie’s domineering sister Dolly (Kara Lane as Frank’s lovelorn assistant) and they get two charming lesser-known Berlin numbers, the second of which, ‘Who Do You Love, I Hope?’, is executed particularly well and with a good sense of fun. Indeed, what Annie Get Your Gun lacks in huge sets, it more than makes up for in the quality of the music that carries the story and the show – even the rare, lesser-known numbers are perfect gems. As for Annie and Frank, their sharpshooting contest at the end becomes a draw in this version as Frank finally accepts that Annie is more than a match for him – there’s no business like show business after all.