Transcript: Connie Meng Review aired Monday, August 1, 2005
Anne of Green Gables
I don't know how I missed reading Lucy Maude Montgomery's classic ANNE OF GREEN GABLES when I was growing up. I finally read it last week and discovered, as Mark Twain said, "the most lovable childhood heroine since the immortal Alice." The story of this fiercely independent and creative red-haired orphan on Prince Edward Island has become a symbol of Canada's national heritage. Anne is especially beloved in Japan, where the book was used in the schools for teaching English during the post-war occupation.
The musical version, adapted by Donald Harron with music by Norman Campbell, captures the central characters and emotional ambiance of the book. It's certainly not necessary to have read it, but I think being familiar with the story leads to a fuller enjoyment of the show.
First and foremost let me say Hallelujah! No mikes! It's wonderful to hear strong un-amplified voices. The Springer Theatre has excellent acoustics, and not a lyric is lost. Musical Director Sandy Thorburn skillfully accompanies the production on a baby grand piano. His wise decision to eliminate microphones gives the show a natural sound that helps emphasize the simple rural values of the story. Let's hope this is the beginning of a trend away from blasting over-amplification in the theatre.
Set Designer John C. Dinning has carried on the theme of period simplicity by using a number of lovely water-color-like roll drops. The farmhouse interior slides on and off with ease and the other set pieces are very clever. There's a school house exterior that unfolds like a cut-out, then later reverses to become a general store that also unfolds.
Renee Brode's lighting is excellent as are Dennis Horn's period costumes, especially the shoes. The one costuming exception is, once again Mr. Horn, a wig. That of Miss Stacy badly needs re-dressing.
The large cast is generally solid. The Kid's Chorus, (I saw Group 2), is lively and talented. Judy Cooke is good as Mrs. Lynde, as is Timm Hughes as Mr. Phillips. Ashley Taylor makes a nice Diana, both in her acting and strong singing.
As Miss Stacy, Rosemary Doyle is a bit too much like Glinda the Good Witch for my taste. I assume that was the direction, as I've seen Miss Doyle's strength in other roles. Adrian Marchuk is effective as Gilbert Blythe and is a delight to watch in the dance numbers.
Mo Bock as Matthew Cuthbert and Deborah Tennant as his sister Marilla, Anne's adoptive family, are both excellent. Mr. Bock especially has a wonderful warmth in his scenes with Anne. They each have lovely quiet moments of song that are very affecting.
As for Ramona Gilmour-Darling, she lights up the stage as Anne "with an e." The character's enthusiasm for life overflows and is thoroughly believable. She does an especially nice job with the ice cream number.
Kiri-Lynn Muir has created inventive and fun choreography, especially for the kids. Director Greg Wanless has done a fine job of pulling all the elements together into a cohesive whole. The warmth and optimism of the piece shine throughout. This is a lovely production of a show that'll appeal to the whole family.
On a scale of one to five the 1000 Islands Playhouse production of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES gets four and one-third fish. For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.
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