Duggan gets his gun

Parents get dragged into the darndest things by their kids.

Aw, c’mon, Dad, you know you want to do it. C’mon, Mom, it’s really fun!

For John Duggan (above, center), it didn’t take too much arm-twisting for his twin sons, Mikhail and NikolaiKhail and Nik to their friends — to pull him back into the world of theater.

Though he had been involved in theater in his younger years as a performer and a director, Duggan began concentrating more on his career in video-game graphics, especially when the twins came along 15 years ago.

That’s when Duggan and his family moved to Redwood City so he could design games for the likes of Sega, Sony and Disney.

When the twins were about 7, Duggan got them interested in theater by introducing them to San Carlos Children’s Theatre, and they loved it — so much that they have agents and are seeking commercial work.

“Now they’re into musical theater and are taking dance and voice,” Duggan says. “That’s when they started browbeating me about auditioning.”

Khail and Nik were intent on getting cast in Broadway by the Bay’s Annie Get Your Gun, and their dad decided he’d give it a shot as well.

On Saturday, when Annie officially opens in San Mateo, you’ll find the Duggan twins in the ensemble as roustabouts and circus folk, and you’ll find John Duggan as Chief Sitting Bull, the Sioux warrior.

“The funny thing is that I’m half Japanese, half Irish-American,” Duggan says. “I was taught you always do your research, so I read up on Sitting Bull. He was bowlegged and short. He became a medicine man because he couldn’t move as fast as the other warriors. He was the strategic one. Learning that was helpful, but I don’t think the audience would care to see me doing my impersonation of a bowlegged person.”

Annie Get Your Gun, with a glorious score by Irving Berlin, was inspired by real-life people Annie Oakley, Frank Butler and Sitting Bull, and was originally written for Ethel Merman in 1946. By the time it was revived on Broadway in 1999 for Bernadette Peters, Sitting Bull’s song, “I’m an Indian Too,” had been cut for being outdated in its attitude toward Indians.

“That’s OK,” Duggan says. “My singing voice is pretty good but not as broad as it used to be. My voice teacher says I used to be a high tenor. Now I’m a `guy getting older’ tenor. I’ve lost a lot of the higher notes. I still sing in the opening and other ensemble numbers.”

In some productions, Sitting Bull is played nobly. In others, he’s a more comic character. Director Alex Perez saw Larry Storch, of “F Troop” fame, play the part on Broadway, and that’s the direction he wants Duggan to go.

“I’m playing it for laughs,” Duggan says. “I’m trying to stay true to the character while channeling Larry Storch. Our job is to get the audience members out of their seats laughing.”
Duggan says the best part of this whole “Annie” experience, in addition to returning to the stage after more than 20 years away, is being onstage with his sons.

“I looked at them and realized that in three years they graduate, go off to college and start their own lives. I want to grab as much time with them as I can now.”

“Annie Get Your Gun” continues through Oct. 7 at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center, 600 N. Delaware St., San Mateo. Shows are at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays (plus 2 p.m. Sept. 29). Tickets are $17 to $42. Call 650-579-5565 or visit www.broadwaybythebay.org.

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