Annie Get Your Gun musical opens June 23 in Richland
When Curtis Bearchum takes the stage as Sitting Bull in Mid-Columbia Musical Theatre’s production of Annie Get Your Gun, he won’t be wearing a costume.
Instead, he’ll be wearing a war bonnet passed down from his father, along with other authentic Native American regalia, from a bone pipe breastplate to full leather leggings and moccasins.
Bearchum, part of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, wanted Sitting Bull’s dress to be the real deal.
“A costume would not be able to represent what Sitting Bull really wore,” he said. “I was happy to lend a hand.”
Annie Get Your Gun runs June 23-26 and June 30 to July 3 on the outdoor stage at the Reach museum in Richland. Performances are at 7:30 p.m.
The classic musical, with songs by Irving Berlin, centers on the sharpshooter Annie Oakley and her romance with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West co-star Frank Butler.
Sitting Bull, the legendary Hunkpapa Lakota chief and holy man, also was part of the Wild West revue.
Bearchum is making his theater debut in the production.
He originally was just going to perform a traditional dance, but was convinced to take on the role of Sitting Bull.
“I feel very fortunate to be part of (the show),” he said, noting the rest of the cast has been warm and welcoming. “This really been quite the experience.”
The production stars Chelsea James Taylor as Annie Oakley. Taylor’s real-life husband, Rich, takes on the role of Frank Butler, and a few of their children also are in the show.
Jo Brodzinski is directing. “It’s such a charming show,” she said. “It’s a family show with delightful music that everybody will recognize.”
Annie Get Your Gun opened on Broadway in 1946, starring Ethel Merman. It’s packed with classic songs such as There’s No Business Like Show Business.
It spawned a 1950 film and several revivals, including one in 1999 starring Bernadette Peters that included a rewrite of the musical’s book.
The show hasn’t been performed in the Tri-Cities since 1960.
Along with providing the authentic regalia for his Sitting Bull role, Bearchum also helped make some small tweaks to the script to more accurately represent Native Americans.
The 61-year-old Richland man grew up in the Pendleton area and Montana, and his lineage is from the Walla Walla, Yakama and Northern Cheyenne tribes.
Now retired, he spent 37 years as part of the Hanford Patrol.
He and his wife, Phyllis — who’s helping in props and costumes on Annie Get Your Gun — have three adult children.
Bearchum regularly makes school presentations, teaching about Native American history and culture.
It’s a passion for him, and he hopes his role in Annie Get Your Gun will not only entertain, but also educate.
“From what I can tell, Sitting Bull was quite the individual. I wanted to lend some authenticity, to best represent what he would do,” he said. “This helps make me feel like in some small way I’m helping better represent Native Americans as a whole. It’s a small step, but important.”
Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $10 for students and children. They’re available at mcmt.tix.com or in person at Tri-Cities Academy of Ballet and Music, 21 Aaron Drive, or Adventures Underground, 1391 George Washington Way, both in Richland.
Tri-City Herald Arts & Entertainment
By Sara Schilling June 22, 2016