By Bob Evans
Audiences have only about 15 seconds to resist the on-stage presence of Annie Oakley as Cheryl Weaver takes that stage and commands the full attention of those present in the Central Standard Theatre’s offering for the KC Fringe, Performing Annie Oakley: Shooting is a Gentle Thing, at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre.
America’s Wild West heroine confesses from the start that she was born in Ohio and never went further west than Ohio (“although Buffalo Bill said I was from Kansas”) in her career as a shootist and a performer. Annie sets the record straight in her one-woman discussion with a bit of audience participation included.
Weaver wears the costume and character like a well-worn glove. She steps on the stage as Annie Oakley and commands the audience’s attention through the 50-minute performance. And, to keep the show moving, she introduces her puppetry skills with a Little Bill, a miniature Buffalo Bill (kids will love this).
The show brings up relevant questions of woman suffrage, Indian and buffalo massacre, welfare, and history verses fact. In the show, Annie Oakley wants to control her mark in history and set the record straight.
Much of the story told is known. Annie Oakley is an American icon. Hearing her character deliver her story gives a powerful voice to historic fact. This family-oriented show would be very appropriate for all ages. Even elementary students would follow and focus the story. Annie Oakley comes off as a lady, not as a caricature of an American heroine.