The Brandywiners' ‘Annie Get Your Gun' is a light hearted, spirited lark

Courtesy photo
Chimney swifts fly out of a chimney.
Courtesy photo Chimney swifts fly out of a chimney.

It was great fun to see The Brandywiners’ production of “Annie Get Your Gun” by Irving Berlin at Longwood Gardens last weekend. The original show opened in 1966, almost half a century ago, which may be the reason there were many gray heads in the audience, and the reason there were not too many young people in the audience. This is really too bad, as it is a lively, innocent show with some terrific music that unfortunately the next generation doesn’t seem to know.

The original show starred Ethel Merman, noted for her big, bigbrassy voice that added to the fun of the songs. The story is a fictionalized story about Annie Oakley, a female sharpshooter who joined a touring wild west show and fell in love with an egotistical male sharpshooter.

The cast at Longwood Gardens was led by two strong voices with good character acting and a light hearted approach to the story.

Rebecca Buswell Kotsifas as the uncouth but heart of gold Annie Oakley, madly in love with a sharpshooter, who was the show’s star, was terrific. She has a powerful voice, adopted a great hillbilly accent, and returned from the European Tour a smarter, smoother lady. She also has excellent comedic timing.


Robert Welch as her idol Frank Butler has a powerful voice that reaches the rafters. He played Butler with more ego and less warmth than I have seen in other productions, but he still sparkled enough to impress a country girl. The two sang together perfectly and the music is so grand.

If it has been a long time since you have seen this musical, it is the story of country hick Annie Oakley, who can shoot better than Frank Butler, who has the title of world’s best sharpshooter, She falls in love with him, he ignores her,

Each joins rival Wild West Shows, and eventually they get back together. Through all this there is a string of perfectly performed fun songs including “The Girl That I Marry,” “You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun” and Moonshine Lullaby.”

The opening number “There’s No Business Like Show Business” showed off the wealth of talent in the chorus both musically and acting. The entire chorus danced well but kudos go to the six men and six ladies who performed the choreography by Tamara Paulino so professionally, particularly in “My Defenses Are Down”.

There were many smaller parts done extremely well, such as Randy Weber as wise Chief Sitting Bull, Drew Biehl as the pragmatic Pawnee Bill and the jealous Dolly Tate played by Nance Weber with vim and vinegar. The young couple of Winnie Tate (Carolyn Peck) and the half breed Tommy Keeler (Ricky Rotandi) were a winning pair who won your hearts with their singing and dancing.

This is a beautiful redoing of an older musical with marvelous music that hasn’t lost its sparkle and that takes us back to simpler times. If you have never seen it, this is a delightful production that does it proud. It will be performed again on August 1, 2 and 3 at Longwood Gardens at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $31 for adults, $26 for youths but that includes all day access to Longwood. Call 302-478-3355 for tickets.


Our house has two chimneys. Much to our delight chimney swifts have nested in the bedroom chimney every spring and summer for at least 30 years. We love having them, hearing the flurry of air as the troupe leaves in a group ensemble. Then when the babies are hatched we go to sleep hearing the cheep, cheep of tiny swifts.

When we had the chimney sweep coming, I didn’t know whether or not to have him clean both chimneys, as the Swifts always return to the bedroom chimney. I understand there are nests all over the inside of the chimney, but I don’t know if they like having them there or even reuse them. I asked the bird experts at Tri-State Bird Rescue whether or not the swifts would like to have their chimney cleaned. The experts didn’t know, so we didn’t have it cleaned,

This spring the swifts returned, only they went into both chimneys, I don’t know whether they did this because there are so many of them they need two chimneys or some of them like a clean chimney.

In all the years they have been nesting here, only one baby has fallen into the fireplace below. I couldn’t get him back above the damper so I took him to Tri-State. Three weeks later when I was there I learned they had about 25 baby swifts all being hand fed as they lived in a baby crib.

They had spotters on the alert, looking for a flock of migrating swifts. When they spot them they turn the baby Swifts loose so they can join the flock where the older birds will teach them how to survive in the wild. If you are not familiar with Tri-State they are the first group called for disasters affecting wild life, such as oil spills. They have a worldwide reputation, even if they don’t know whether or not Swifts like their chimneys cleaned.


The BBC in the UK sent a crew over to our little corner of the world to speak to people who had been close to artist Andrew Wyeth as they are interested in making a short film about him. They spoke to several local people who knew Andy well, but were quite taken with Helen and George Sipala of Chadds Ford, who were close friends of his. They were such close friends that Andy had a key to their house so he could visit whenever he was near by. They were a little surprised to find him in their bed room sketching them as they slept one morning. This sketch was a preliminary for the painting “Marriage.”Helen was also a model for Andy for quite a few of his paintings of nuns.

A great deal of the film will be shot in the large Sipala home in Chadds Ford, where Wyeth spent so many happy hours. The film crew will be here in early September, the same time many Sipala relatives from Michigan will be visiting. Their biggest worry right now is scheduling the two groups.


The KATS players will be in Kennett on Friday, Aug. 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the Genesis Walkway during the Friday Art Stroll. This tale is called Snow White’s Family Reunion” and T-shirts will be given to the clever solvers of the murder. For more information you can go to


Opera Philadelphia will open its season with the Verdi opera “NABUCCO,” supposedly the story of the Biblical Tale of the defeat, enslavement and exile of the Jews in Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar.However, the Austrians were currently fighting for their freedom from Austria. The chorus of the Hebrew Slaves became a national anthem of sorts. Verdi became a leading figure in the movement. Performances will be given at the Academy of Music Sept. 27 through Oct, 6.


You can visit the Delaware Museum of Natural History on Tuesdays in August for just a dollar, courtesy of Artisan’s Bank. The exhibit “Water’s Extreme Journey” will be there all month. Also at the museum will be Johnnie’s Dog House and fruit and produce from the Point Lookout Farms Produce Stand.


The runners at the Kennett Symphony Beat Beethoven 5K Run came from all over. However we did have a few local runners who did very well. Congratulations go to –Tim Christopher in 2nd place male in age 16 -25 and James Churchman, 2nd place in male in age 56 and over, both from Kennett Square. From West Chester winners are Payne Pachua, 2nd place male in age group youth to 15, William Panagakos, 1st place male in age 16- 25, Christine Deangelo, 2nd place female in age 36-45 and Michael Harmstead, 2nd place male in age 36 – 45.


The Hedgerow Theatre, will present a series of scenes and monologues, loosely connected historically and thematically Aug. 3 through 11 in the Hedgerow Theatre Farmhouse Studio, located at 146 West Rose Valley Road, located up the road from the Hedgerow Theatre. These scenes explore women’s relationships to one another, from a an early Greek comedy, to a medieval play to the servant/mistress love/hate bond, to the voice of the 20th century of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda. The scenes will be done cabaret style. Attendees are invited to bring their favorite beverages and snacks. Performances are Saturday, Aug. 3 and 10 at 4 p.m. and Sunday, Aug.4 and 11 at 3 p.m. Admission is by donation. Call 610-565-4211 for information.


The Mauchingbird Theatre that specializes in gender-bending roles is presenting that old Oscar Wilde comedy “The Importance of Being Ernest.” They are not delivering their usual gay emphasis but are emphasizing the importance of class and status. As Director Peter Reynolds explains, “What works in this version is that it doesn’t matter to Lady Bracknell if her son wants to marry a man or a woman, as long as their class and status are up to her standards.” The performances will be Aug. 7 through 25 at the off-Broad Street Theatre at First Baptist Church located at 1636 Sansom St., Philadelphia. For tickets (25) call 215-923-8909.


The Thursday Night concert at the Myrick Conservation Center has only two more shows.

On Aug. 1 the Country & Blue Grass Rob Dickenson Band will return with a program of original songs. The final concert on Aug. 8 will be the Pennsylvania Flute Choir with 20 flutes will play light, casual music. Bring a blanket or lawn chair to be comfortable.

Caryl Huffaker lives in Kennett Township.