Select Page

Anne of Green Gables: The Musical — This production outshines the material

by | Dec 17, 2022 | Review | 0 comments

publicity photo for Anne of Green Gables

You’ve got to love these two: Kyra Leroux and Anthony Santiago.
(Photo by Ross Denotte)

Anne of Green Gables: The Musical is brainless but chipper and Gateway Theatre’s polished production includes a couple of remarkably strong performances.

In case you don’t know the story, the musical is based on L.M. Montgomery’s 1908 novel. Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, unmarried siblings in their fifties and sixties, decide to house an orphan boy who will provide labour on their farm on Prince Edward Island. But young Anne Shirley arrives and, after some hesitation on Marilla’s part, they keep her. Much of the material is about how feisty and imaginative Anne is — although she despises her red hair. As the years pass, Anne wins over the entire town of Avonlea.

Ultimately, Anne of Green Gables is about self-acceptance and belonging, but its story is episodic and, because the musical telling fails to develop these episodes in any depth, it feels they’re simply being listed as quickly as possible and it’s hard to find a narrative focus. Anne tries to dye her hair black, but it turns green; within minutes, that’s all forgotten. Throughout the musical, Anne and her schoolmate Gilbert Blythe are obviously attracted to one another, but, on her first day of school in Avonlea, Gilbert teases her about her hair and she doesn’t forgive him — until a quick resolution near the end of Act 2 in which they’re suddenly arm in arm declaring their love in song.

Instead of well-developed relationships, the musical offers a lot of atmospheric material about an impossibly quaint version of historic PEI. No wonder it has become a major tourist draw in Charlottetown.

Thankfully, director Barbara Tomasic’s production is much better than the musical itself.

It’s not often that an actor feels perfect for a role but, at the Gateway Theatre, Kyra Leroux feels perfect for Anne Shirley. Leroux, who’s 20, has a powerful soprano and she knows how to use it. She’s a balletic, athletic dancer. She captures all of the character’s fierce effervescence and, when she needs to quiet all of that down and bring it home emotionally, Leroux can do that too.

The other performance I adored is Anthony Santiago’s Matthew. Santiago’s characterization is instantly, amiably charismatic and his singing is rich and unforced: a lovely tone just flows out of him.

I’m less certain about Katey Wright’s Marilla. As written, Marilla is the bad cop to Matthew’s good cop. She’s the disciplinarian, the one who disapproves of picnics because she thinks it’s unnatural to eat outdoors. Wright delivers Marilla’s often harsh lines with surprising softness. I can see her thoughtful approach as an effort to show respect for the character and, to a limited extent, this take works on its own terms. But, in the bigger picture, Wright’s choices slacken the musical’s most essential tension.

The three actors I’ve just mentioned are all members of Actors’ Equity. Angus Yam, who’s playing Gilbert Blythe, however, is an emerging performer. His singing isn’t as refined as the others’ — yet — but he has a charmingly confident, easy delivery and his Act 1 song, “Wonderin’” contains the show’s most evocative melody.

I also want to mention Nicol Spinola’s vivacious choreography. I particularly appreciate the way she complicates synchronicity by adding asynchronous elements.

Anne of Green Gables: The Musical doesn’t give you a lot to think about — or to feel really — but this production provides a showcase for some significant talent.

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES Book by Donald Harron. Music by Norman Campbell. Adapted from the novel by L.M. Montgomery. Directed by Barbara Tomasic. A Gateway Theatre production at the Gateway Theatre on Friday, December 16. Continues until December 31. Tickets and information

NEVER MISS A REVIEW: Sign up for FRESH SHEET, my weekly e-letter about the arts. 

And, if you want to help to keep independent arts criticism alive in Vancouver, check out my Patreon page.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Freshsheet Reviews logo reversed

Subscribe Free!

Sign up for the FRESH SHEET newsletter and get curated local, national, and international arts coverage — all sorts of arts — every week.


Drop a line to


FRESH SHEET, the reviews and FRESH SHEET, the newsletter are available free. But writing them is a full-time job and arts criticism is in peril. Please support FRESH SHEET by sending an e-transfer to or by becoming a patron on Patreon.

Copyright ©2024 Colin Thomas. All rights reserved.