DECEMBER 2022 | Volume 222
Kyra Leroux, Scotia Browner. Photo by Ross Denotter.
Anne of Green Gables: The Musical
Book by Donald Harron, adapted from Lucy Maud Montgomery
Music by Norman Campbell
Gateway Theatre, Richmond
www.gatewaytheatre.com or 604-270-1812
The musical version of Anne of Green Gables, currently playing at Richmond’s Gateway, has a fascinating pedigree. Adapted, of course, from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1908 novel, it was written for, and premiered at, Prince Edward Island’s Charlottetown Festival in 1965. It turned out to be one of the most successful Canadian plays of that decade, the decade that effectively gave birth to professional Canadian theatre. Performed every year since then at Charlottetown, except for two years during COVID, Anne of Green Gables: The Musical has become the world’s longest running annual musical theatre production.
Still, I wondered—never having seen the play or heard the score—how corny or sappy might that 60-year-old script and music be. And what kind of sense would it make as a Christmas show?
My conclusions: the Anne of Green Gables story is a true classic; Don Harron’s theatrical adaptation is excellent, giving us the essence of Anne herself and the most salient aspects of the novel with nary a dull moment; the music is lively and hummable, the lyrics clever; and Barbara Tomasic’s snappy Gateway production is a joy, with a sterling performance by Kyra Leroux as Anne at the centre of thoroughly delightful ensemble. It’s a show whose upbeat sentiment is ideal for the season.
Leroux perfectly embodies Anne’s precocious, imaginative spunk, hot red-headed temper, and funny, needy ability to transcend her sad personal history. Leroux has great energy, a strong singing voice, and she can dance, too. The frequent dance numbers featuring the younger characters are highlights. Kudos to choreographer Nicol Spinola.
A couple of other performances really stand out. Anthony Santiago couldn’t be sweeter as Matthew Cuthbert, the farmer with whom orphan Anne comes to live, and who becomes her greatest ally. Scotia Browner is terrific as Diana, the girl who becomes Anne’s best friend. Also very good are the less sympathetic characters, Matthew’s sister Marilla (Katie Wright), gossipy neighbour Mrs. Lynde (Jennifer Long), Anne’s rival Josie (Marija Danyluk), and the boy Anne and Josie fight over, Gilbert (Angus Yam).
Most of Donnie Tejanie’s period costumes look great. Music director Sean Bayntun’s onstage band consists of eight of the actors, an impressive use of their multiple talents.This show doesn’t come around very often. So do yourself a favour and see this sterling production of a genuine Canadian classic.
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