Before Anna of Arendelle, there was Anne of Green Gables; both outspoken, free-spirited young redheaded orphans with strong romantic ideals. While Anna lived trapped in her palace, longing for the love of her sister, Anne moved from foster home to foster home before ending up in an orphanage desperate to find a real home of her own.
Which is where Anne of Green Gables begins, with Anne arriving in Avonlea to be adopted by Matthew Cuthbert. This comes as a surprise to Matthew, who along with his sister Marilla, had planned to adopt a boy that could help run their small family farm (Green Gables) as they reached their late 50s.
Anne of Green Gables was first published as a novel in 1908. It has been translated into 20 languages, been adapted into movies, tv series, and live theatre, and has captured the hearts of Canadians and people around the world as an ingrained part of our culture.
While making a few departures from the novel, the musical version of Anne of Green Gables is both funny and heartfelt. It’s a look at a unique time and place in Canadian history – where one room school houses were the norm and where ice cream was a rare treat.
Orpheus’ reputation is of putting their all into what they do. Fantastic sets and costumes, strong choreography, high-caliber casts leading to the delivery of highly entertaining musical productions.
Anne of Green Gables doesn’t disappoint in any of those areas and results in a delightful testament to the spirit of Anne Shirley.
The cast entire is quite good with highlights coming from Kate Boone, Laura Duncan, and Jim Robertson. Boone’s Diana Berry (Anne’s best friend) gives perhaps one of the highlights of the show in a scene where she accidentally gets into the drink but it’s Duncan and Robertson as Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert who forge the heart of this show in how adopting Anne changes their lives. Duncan’s Marilla well manages the fine balance of being stuck as disciplinarian to a feisty young girl and not being able to show Anne her loving side as much as she’d like. And Robertson’s Matthew succeeds in bringing to bear a shy never-married man for whom Anne brings a light into his life that had been sorely lacking.
Anne herself is played by Caroline Baldwin who while being noticeably older than Anne Shirley’s tender teenage age isn’t distractingly so. It’s easy to get lost in her quick-witted characterization and melodramatic flare and connect to the struggle of a young girl with a deep desire to belong and be accepted and who ultimately has to start believing in her own worth.
It is a mild shame that considering Baldwin herself has perfect hair for the part, the wig she dons for much of the second act is sorely notable.
In sum total, all the pieces are here in this production for a memorable, heartfelt evening full of both laughs and feels. Without saying more than needed, the little girl sitting a few seats up row from me was openly crying at the emotional climax of the show. A quick look around showed that she wasn’t the only one.
You don’t need a better testimonial than that.
Anne of Green Gables is a part of classic Canadian culture well worth seeing, now through November 29th at Centrepointe Theatre.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. What impressed you most, or not, about the show? What cultural differences from a simpler did you notice that you couldn’t get away with today? Join the discussion and let me know what you think in the comments below.