Annie get your gun - Australian seasons, 1947-1963

Introduction

Annie get your gun
Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by Herbert and Dorothy Field

The J.C. Williamson production of Annie get your gun heralded the arrival of the new post-World War II Broadway musical on to the Australian theatre scene. The show had opened on Broadway in May 1946 and was an instant hit starring Ethel Merman. Just over twelve months later the Australian production opened in Melbourne, the traditional location for J.C. Williamson to premiere their latest musical offering.

As was common practice for J.C. Williamson they had endeavoured to find a leading lady overseas to play the role of Annie Oakley. Instead they found the right person in Australia, local vaudeville personality Evie Hayes. Born in America, Evie Hayes had been in Australia since 1938 with her husband Will Mahoney performing in vaudeville on the Tivoli Circuit. Together they had established the Cremorne Theatre in Brisbane as a famous variety venue. Her success in Annie get your gun was instant and she went on to play the role for 6 years and over 3,500 performances, a world record for an actress in a lead role in a musical.

Other leading roles in Annie get your gun were cast with imported actors most of whom returned home to America. One major exception was Hayes Gordon who was imported for the 1952-3 tour of Annie get your gun in the role of Frank Butler. Hayes Gordon remained in Australia and founded an influential school of acting and the Ensemble Theatre in Sydney, which is still a major player on the theatre scene.

With Annie get your gun a success, J.C. Williamson soon ensured that more Broadway musicals were produced for eager Australian audiences. Oklahoma!, Brigadoon, South Pacific, Kiss me, Kate, and Call me Madam followed in quick succession over the next six years. Towards the end of the 1953 tour of Annie get your gun, the firm staged Kiss me, Kate starring Evie Hayes which meant she was playing the two musicals almost in repertory. When both Kate and Annie finished, Evie Hayes took on the lead role in Call me Madam, again to great popular acclaim.

The National Library acquired a major collection of programmes, manuscripts and music from the J.C. Williamson organisation in the 1970s. The documentation of J.C. Williamson is of prime importance in Australia’s theatre history. ‘The Firm’, as it was known, dominated Australian theatre going habits and tastes of the public for nearly 100 years. A comprehensive program collection is a major component of that historical record. For example, it enables the unravelling of the complexity of a long running touring show such as Annie get your gun. Additions are constantly being made to the collection of J.C. Williamson programs to ensure that the Library has a comprehensive record of all attractions and tours entrepreneured by The Firm in all Australian cities. There are still gaps remaining to be filled in the collection as evidenced by the list which follows.

A listing of programs for opera seasons mounted by J.C.Williamson 1901-1967 is available at: http://www.nla.gov.au/prompt/jc-williamson-opera-programs

A complete summary list of theatrical programs in the J.C. Williamson collection is nearing completion and will be published as a an on-line PROMPT Finding Aid in the near future.

1947-1950 tour

J. C. Williamson production

Director - Carl Randall
Musical Director - Leo.Packer unless otherwise noted
Scenery – Geo. Upward, J. Alan Kenyon and assistants
Wardrobe - by ‘Henry’ (J.C.W. Modes)

Melbourne
His Majesty's Theatre.
Opened 19 July 1947 [closed 12 May 1948]

2 copies of 4p. advertising brochure held.
1 copy programme held.
Issue of standard J.C. Williamson’s Magazine programme.

Principal cast:    
  Annie Oakley Evie Hayes
  Frank Butler Webb Tilton
  Charlie Davenport l Carl Randal
  Dolly Tate Marie La Verre
  Winnie Tate Elizabeth Gaye
  Tommy Keeler Billy Kershaw
  Buffalo Bill Claude Flemming
  Pawnee Bill Charles Crawford
  Chief Sitting Bull Sydney Wheeler

Adelaide
Theatre Royal

Opened 15 May 1948 [closed 10 July 1948]

2 copies of programme held. As above.

Principal cast:    
  Annie Oakley Evie Hayes
  Frank Butler Webb Tilton
  Charlie Davenport Peter French
  Dolly Tate Marie La Verre
  Winnie Tate Elizabeth Gaye
  Tommy Keeler Billy Kershaw
  Buffalo Bill Claude Flemming
  Pawnee Bill Charles Crawford
  Chief Sitting Bull Sydney Wheeler

Brisbane
Her Majesty's Theatre.

[Opened 13 July 1948. Closed 21 August 1948.]

No programme held.

Sydney
Theatre Royal
Opened 27 August 1948 [closed 31 August 1949]

4 copies of variant programmes held. Cover features American Indian headdress, black on blue background.

1. [August 1948?]

Principal cast:    
  Annie Oakley Evie Hayes
  Frank Butler Webb Tilton
  Charlie Davenport Carl Randall
  Dolly Tate Marie La Verre
  Winnie Tate Ann Donald
  Tommy Keeler Billy Kershaw
  Buffalo Bill Claude Flemming
  Pawnee Bill Charles Crawford
  Chief Sitting Bull Sydney Wheeler

2. Duplicate copy

3. [later 1948 ?]
Cast as above

4. [1949?]
Cast as above except for minor cast changes:

Donald Kirk replaced Billy Kershaw as Tommy Keeler
Robert Smith replaced Dal Riddle as Little Jake

Souvenir programme. Third edition. Sydney [1949?].
Cover features full length photo of Evie Hayes as Annie Oakley on purple background. 2 copies held.

New Zealand
8 month tour - Wellington Opera House, Timaru, Oamaru, Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercagill, Masterton, New Plymouth, Napier, Gisbourne, Hamilton, Auckland*

Wellington
Grand Opera House
Opened Wednesday May 29, 1963
Anne Hart as Annie Oakley and Mav Chadban as Frank Butler

Brisbane
His Majesty's Theatre
[Opened 3 March 1950. Closed 1 April 1950.]

No programme held.

Perth
Empire Theatre

[Opened 10 April 1950. Closed 20 May 1950.]

No programme held.

Adelaide
Theatre Royal.

Opened 25 May 1950. [Closed 8 June 1950.]

Programme held. Cover is Indian headdress silhouette on brown background.
NB. Musical Director - Carlo Briglia.

Principal cast:    
  Annie Oakley Evie Hayes
  Frank Butler Earl Covert
  Charlie Davenport Carl Randall
  Dolly Tate Marie La Verre
  Winnie Tate Ann Donald
  Tommy Keeler Donald Kirk
  Buffalo Bill Claude Flemming
  Pawnee Bill Charles Crawford
  Chief Sitting Bull Sydney Wheeler

Melbourne
His Majesty's Theatre.

Opened 10 June 1950. [Closed 11 July 1950.]

2 copies of programme held. Cover is American Indian headdress,black on brown.
NB Musical Director – Carlo Briglia

Principal cast:    
  Annie Oakley Evie Hayes
  Frank Butler Earl Covert
  Charlie Davenport Carl Randall
  Dolly Tate Marie La Verre
  Winnie Tate Ann Donald
  Tommy Keeler Donald Kirk
  Buffalo Bill Claude Flemming
  Pawnee Bill Charles Crawford
  Chief Sitting Bull Sydney Wheeler

Sydney
Empire Theatre.
Opened 13 July 1950. [Closed 23 August 1950.]

1 copy “Souvenir programme” held. Cover is cartoon of vaudeville stage on pink background.

Principal cast:    
  Annie Oakley Evie Hayes
  Frank Butler Earl Covert
  Charlie Davenport Carl Randall
  Dolly Tate Marie La Verre
  Winnie Tate Ann Donald
  Tommy Keeler Donald Kirk
  Buffalo Bill Claude Flemming
  Pawnee Bill Frank Martin
  Chief Sitting Bull Charles Crawford

1952-1953 TOUR

J.C. Williamson production
Director - John Casson
Musical Director – Leo. Packer unless otherwise noted

Melbourne
His Majesty's Theatre. “3rd Melbourne season“
Opened 5 July 1952. [Closed 31 July 1952.]

1 copy programme held. Cover is American Indian headdress, tan on yellow.

Principal cast:    
  Annie Oakley Evie Hayes
  Frank Butler Hayes Gordon
  Charlie Davenport Robert Healey
  Dolly Tate Marie La Verre
  Winnie Tate Ann Donald
  Tommy Keeler Donald Kirk
  Buffalo Bill Graeme Bent
  Pawnee Bill Charles Crawford
  Chief Sitting Bull Alec Kellaway

Sydney
Theatre Royal.

Opened 5 December 1952. [Closed 28 January 1953.]

2 copies programme held with minor differences in advertisements. Cover is American Indian headdress, purple on pink background.

Principal cast:    
  Annie Oakley Evie Hayes
  Frank Butler Hayes Gordon
  Charlie Davenport Robert Healey
  Dolly Tate Marie La Verre
  Winnie Tate Ann Donald
  Tommy Keeler Donald Kirk
  Buffalo Bill Graeme Bent
  Pawnee Bill Charles Crawford
  Chief Sitting Bull Alec Kellaway

Adelaide
Theatre Royal. “3rd Return Season”
[Opened 28 April 1953. Closed 5 May 1953.]

1 copy programme held. Cover is American Indian headdress, black on orange.

Principal cast:    
  Annie Oakley Evie Hayes
  Frank Butler Hayes Gordon
  Charlie Davenport Robert Healey
  Dolly Tate Shirley May Donald
  Winnie Tate Maggie Fitzgibbon
  Tommy Keeler Donald Kirk
  Buffalo Bill Graeme Bent
  Pawnee Bill Charles Crawford
  Chief Sitting Bull Alec Kellaway

1963 SEASON

J.C. Williamson production
Director - Betty Pounder
Musical Director – Ralph Mace

Sydney
Her Majesty's Theatre.

Opened 5 October 1963. [Closed 9 November 1963.]

3 copies programme held. Cover is montage of banners with details of show, pink and white.

Principal cast:    
  Annie Oakley Anne Hart
  Frank Butler Mav Chadban
  Charlie Davenport Alton Harvey
  Dolly Tait Mora Dean
  Winnie Tait Jillian Hough
  Tommy Keeler Jon Dennis
  Buffalo Bill Ken Fraser
  Pawnee Bill Larry McKeever
  Chief Sitting Bull Dennis Glenny

Location and Footnotes

The programs and ephemera for Annie get your gun are located in the J.C. Williamson sequence of the PROMPT collection in folders under the title of the show.
Material from the PROMPT collection is available for use through the Petherick Reading Room, Ground Floor. Readers should complete an electronic call slip for the following catalogue record, specifying the name of the show required:

[J. C. Williamson (theatrical productions) : programs and related material collected by the National Library of Australia]

All season dates have been taken from programs except those found in newspapers which are indicated in square brackets

*Details of New Zealand tour taken from:

Crampton, John. Evie Hayes: "And I loves ya back!"
Sydney : Angus & Robertson, 1992
NLA Call no. NL 792.028092 H417C