It's hard to imagine Irving Berlin nervous about anything, let alone writing tunes for a Broadway musical. After a half-decade hiatus, though, (except for the wartime U.S. morale-booster "This Is the Army"), Berlin was plenty scared when asked to complete the late Jerome Kern's "Annie Get Your Gun."

Replacing Kern was part of it, as was the fact that he was uncertain if he would be able to create songs that would fit in with the storyline and meet the approval of its producers, none other than Rodgers and Hammerstein, and its star, Ethel Merman.

But before taking no for an answer, R&H convinced Berlin to noodle with the idea of a musical book on sharpshooters Annie Oakley and Frank Butler and Western legend Buffalo Bill, whose show they performed in. After a week, Berlin came back with several tunes, including "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly" and "There's No Business like Show Business." R&H loved the songs, Berlin was convinced he could do the job, and his show went on to be a classic.

It remains so popular that it will be performed as this year's opening show beginning Friday at Woodminster Summer Musicals at the Woodminster Amphitheater in the Oakland hills.


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The show's music and lyrics are by Berlin, with the book by Herbert Fields and Dorothy Fields. The show is directed for Woodminster by Joel Schlader and choreographed by Linda Dorsey, with music direction by Greg Mason.

"Annie Get Your Gun" is based loosely on Oakley's years with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and her romance with Butler, a fellow shooter and Oakley's main competition The tale tells the story of the up-and-down relationship between the two sharpshooting sweethearts and touches on life with a traveling show (ironically, "There's No Business Like Show Business," which has become an icon of musical theater, was nearly removed from the score).

Annie Oakley will be played by New York actress Claire Buchignani. Butler is played by another New York actor, Danny Rothman. Buffalo Bill Cody is played by familiar Woodminster face, Calvin Smith.

Other songs in the show include "I Got the Sun in the Morning," "Moonshine Lullaby" and, "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better."

"Annie" opens at 8 p.m. Friday in the amphitheater in Joaquin Miller Park, at 3300 Joaquin Miller Road. It then plays at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays through July 21. Tickets, at $25-$56, may be reserved at 510-531-9597, or www.woodminster.com.

"FORTUNATE DAUGHTER": Thao P. Nguyen's solo show opens Saturday in Berkeley's La Val's Subterranean, 1874 Euclid Ave.

The play, produced by Impact Theatre, features Nguyen in a number of different roles in her story about a woman torn between her family home, where her homosexuality must be hidden, and her life in the gay community. The often-funny performance deals with Nguyen's attempt to acclimate her family to her homosexuality.

"Fortunate Daughter" plays in previews Thursday and Friday, with its main run Saturday through Aug. 3. Tickets, at $10-$20, may be reserved at www.impacttheatre.com.

"A MAZE" AND "UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL": The two plays share the stage at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, presented by the Just Theater company.

"A Maze," by Rob Handel, deals with creativity, addiction and love with its interlocking stories of a young girl, a graphic novelist and a rock band. "Underneath the Lintel," by Glen Berger, is a mystery dealing with what unfolds when a Dutch librarian launches a search for a book that is overdue by 113 years. The two plays are presented in previews Friday and Saturday, with the main run Monday through Aug. 4

All tickets are pay what you can at the door or $15-$30 on a sliding scale if reserved. Call 510-214-3780 or http://justtheater.org.

"SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH": Tennessee Williams' work is the story of a drifter and a faded movie star who come into a Gulf Coast town looking for escape and seeking comfort in booze, pills and each other. The production, by the Tides Theatre Company, plays July 18-Aug. 12 at 533 Sutter St., San Francisco. Tickets are $38, $40 for July 19 opening gala. Contact 415-399-1322 or www.tidestheatre.org.

Contact Pat Craig at pjcraig495@yahoo.com.