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

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. [Read more…]

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