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Curtain to rise on music, mystery // "Annie Get Your Gun'

It was quite a surprise to Pam Surbaugh when she learned she had won the lead role in Stage West's upcoming musical, Annie Get Your Gun. She was hoping to get a bit part, but her talents wowed the selection committee.

Though she holds an impressive musical resume, including the St. Louis Symphony Choir and the Pittsburgh Mendelssohn Choir, acting is new to the music teacher/chorus director from J.D. Floyd Elementary School in Spring Hill.

Surbaugh will headline as Annie Oakley in the Irving Berlin classic musical comedy, which opens Thursday at the Stage West Community Playhouse on Forest Oaks Boulevard.

"I'm really excited," said Surbaugh, 39, of Spring Hill. "I haven't had the opportunity to sing in a while. This is definitely a challenge."

Surbaugh is known to many local theatergoers. She recently performed in Irv Clark and Friends II and sang solo in the Nature Coast Festival Singers performance of Handel's Messiah last year.

"Pam is doing a superb job," said director/co-star Tom Russell, who will play Frank Butler, Annie's love interest. "The entire cast is great. They're a group of nice, nice people _ one of the nicest casts I've ever worked with."

Russell is also proud of his young cast members, local middle school students Shannon Lavin, 14; Stacey Berger, 13; Andrea Roebuck, 14; and Steven Schildbach, 12. The girls play Annie's younger sisters, and Schildbach will play Little Jake.

While all are veterans of the stage, Russell said the child actors are sometimes taken for granted. "People tend to forget they're kids," he said.

With a cast of 29 performers, the musical will feature 14 songs, five reprises and five native American/cowboy dances. Audiences will have the opportunity to listen to Berlin classics such as No Business Like Show Business, The Girl That I Marry and Doin' What Comes Natur'lly.

The story is a lighthearted tale about Oakley, one of the most famous sharpshooters with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and her stormy relationship with Frank Butler.

"It's your typical musical of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl in the end," said musical director Wayne Raymond. "But it's a different flavor of music with choruses, solos, duets and quartets. These songs have been around for a long time. They're tunes everyone is familiar with and everyone likes."

Theater review

Annie Get Your Gun, a musical in two acts by Irving Berlin, Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill, Thursday through Nov. 19. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12, all seats reserved. Box office open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, and one hour before curtain. Call 683-5113.