Cheri Seith landed her first theater role last year as Ado Annie in Sun City Grand Comedy and Drama Club’s production of “Oklahoma.”
Before then, Seith had never performed in a musical, with her only stage experience being as a member of the Sweet Adelines. The Sun City Grand resident tackles her most challenging role yet as the legendary gunslinger Annie Oakley in the club’s “Annie Get Your Gun,” which opens April 15.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime role for me,” said Seith. “Last year, I had never even sang a solo or spoke on stage, and look at me now.”
“Annie Get Your Gun” tells a fictionalized version of the sharpshooter and her husband, Frank Butler, all set to the music of Irving Berlin. Many of the show’s songs have lived on in pop culture and include “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly,” “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,” “They Say It’s Wonderful” and “Anything You Can Do.”
Ethel Merman starred as Oakley in the original 1946 production, and a subsequent revival in 1999 featured Bernadette Peters and later Reba McEntire.
Peoria resident and Broadway veteran Alice Korsick, who directs this production, said there are many reasons why the musical has been adored by audiences for years.
“Annie is a lovable, down-to-earth girl who made it big from humble beginnings,” said Korsick, who has appeared in the original Broadway casts of “The Music Man” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” “This is the American dream and story.”
Korsick said she also considers the music uplifting and the dialogue humorous.
In order for “Annie Get Your Gun” to succeed, Korsick said it’s important to have a strong leading actress in the title role.
And she found just that in Seith.
“She is just brilliant in this role, and very believable with the accent and all,” Korsick said.
Working with Korsick has been a joy for the budding actress.
“Alice is a professional from Broadway, so this has really been an education for me,” Seith said. “I’m absorbing and soaking up as much as possible.”
Stepping into the role of Annie Oakley hasn’t been easy for Seith, but she did plenty of research on the legend. In addition, she’s taken vocal lessons for three months to prepare for the production, “putting everything on hold to get it right.”
“This is something deep down inside of me that I’ve always wanted to do, and I’m glad to be here,” Seith said.