Last night I attended opening night of Anne of Green Gables—The Musical, and even if you don’t have the same childhood nostalgia for Anne as I do, you’ll still be endeared by her plucky charm and find yourself rooting for the red-headed orphan girl.
Although this is Canada’s longest-running musical—2009 marks the production’s 45th year—and has enjoyed an international tour to places such as Japan and the U.K., this cherished Canadian tale is making its debut in Toronto now with the support of Dancap Productions.
I admit to being a bit apprehensive about how one of my favourite books would be translated onto the stage. (It’s a book I read every year still in a nod to my childhood, and there are passages I can recite by heart.) Sure, the show had been running for 45 years, but could it translate Anne’s nuanced spunk and innocence into song and dance? How would some of the events that shaped Anne and made her so special be adapted for the stage?
Fortunately, as it turns out, the 3.3 million people who have seen the show before me last night turned out in droves with good reason. Anne’s spirit, so colourfully depicted by Lucy Maud Montgomery, leapt off the page and onto the stage of the Elgin Theatre with all of its old-fashioned yet timeless charisma. Amy Wallis as Avonlea’s youngest heroine does the role more than justice with her exuberance, and Sandy Winsby as soft-spoken Matthew Cuthbert, serves as a counterpoint with his humble, folksy nature.
One unexpected aspect of the show that surprised me but which I absolutely loved were the dance numbers, such as “Back to School Ballet” and Nature Hunt Ballet.” Decked out in layered petticoats and pinafores, the actors still moved gracefully across the stage. They leap-frogged over each other, and swung around in circles with their hooped skirts floating weightlessly around them with such ease.
Anne of Green Gables—The Musical is in Toronto through May 24. So get your tickets and acquant—or re-connect—with a kindred spirit.