My Favourite Red-Headed Canadiana
Note: This show is now closed at Huron Country Playhouse, but will run at Dunfield Theatre, Cambridge, October 14 to November 8, 2015
I love Anne of Green Gables – I first read the book when I was about 10 years old, and have re-read it several times. I have seen the movie with Megan Follows many times – still have it on VHS! Counting both professional and community theatre, I have seen at least eight different productions of this wonderful musical, some of those more than once.
In my books, you can’t go wrong with Anne of Green Gables. And Huron Country Playhouse has done it proud.
It’s the quintessential Canadian bildungsroman. Anne is an orphan sent to live with brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, but learns that they don’t want her because she’s not a boy. But rather than turn her over to the rather nasty Mrs. Blewett, they decide to keep her. Anne is a scatterbrained chatterbox with a temper to match her red hair. But with Matthew’s love and Marilla’s strict guidance, she develops into a very clever, lovable young woman.
Drayton Entertainment has ensured this production is loyal to the traditional concept, following the script as the late Donald Harron and Norman Campbell intended. Credit goes to Director Max Reimer for giving us the original Anne. Choreographer Lisa Stevens even keeps the picnic races as they were initially choreographed by the great Alan Lund.
This production has a star-studded cast: Danielle Wade is perfect as Anne, bouncy and energetic, kind and caring. Wade is best known for winning the CBC-TV reality show, where she was voted in as Dorothy in the Mirvish production of Wizard of Oz. Colin Sheen is excellent as Gilbert Blyth, Anne’s arch enemy turned best friend. Susan Gilmour stays true to the story, playing a stern Marilla who grows to love her young charge, but isn’t demonstrative. Gilmour’s poignant singing of The Words is very moving. Ted Simonett as Matthew shows how much good Anne does for him, as we see him overcoming his debilitating shyness. David Cotton is good as Mr. Phillips, the failed schoolteacher, and Anwyn Musico sings beautifully as Miss Stacy. Jade Rapeta is a delightful Diana Barry, handling the drunken raspberry cordial scene hilariously. The ensemble has wonderful voices, filling the theatre with the familiar tunes.
The children of Avonlea School have very lively, energetic dance numbers. Act one ends with the amazing egg and spoon race, and Act two opens with Where did the summer go? As well, local children appear here and there throughout the show – what a great way to bring in new families to the theatre.
My only concerns with this favourite musical are the backdrops. On the backdrop, the Cuthbert home, Green Gables, appears to be in the centre of town, while according to L. M. Montgomery, Green Gables is located on a farm a distance from the village of Avonlea. As well, in the novel, Avonlea is not on the shoreline, yet lighthouses appeared on the backdrops. The cliffs on the backdrop lack Prince Edward Island’s signature red soil. The Avonlea School should just be a tiny one-room schoolhouse, while the backdrop showed a larger two storey school. More attention to detail is needed in this instance where so many audience members are familiar with this beloved book.
If, somehow, you don’t know Anne of Green Gables, order your tickets now, and read the book! This is an endearing slice of rural life in the early 20th century, and a delicious piece of Canadiana. You can’t call yourself a proud Canadian until you let the girl with carrot-red braids into your heart.
Anne of Green Gables continues with eight shows a week until June 27 at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com
Photo: Colin Sheen as Gilbert, Danielle Wade as Anne and company in Anne of Green Gables, Huron Country Playhouse. Photo by Darlene O’Rourke.
Anne of Green Gables – The Musical
Book by Donald Harron
Music by Norman Campbell
Adapted from the novel by L. M. Montgomery
Directed by Max Reimer
Choreography by Lisa Stevens
Performed by Danielle Wade, Colin Sheen, Susan Gilmour, Ted Simonett, et al.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
June 11 – June 27, 2015 Note: This show is now closed at Huron Country Playhouse, but will run at Dunfield Theatre, Cambridge, October 14 to November 8, 2015
Reviewed by Mary Alderson