Anne Of Green Gables – Youth Musical

‘Anne Of Green Gables – Youth Musical’ is a fabulous musical based on the 1908 timeless novel ‘Anne of Green Gables’ by Lucy Maud Montgomery. ‘Anne of Green Gables’ was the first book in a series, written between 1908 and 1939.
The hilarious storyline, along with the catchy music and the lyrics, was penned by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman.

The story is based in the Canadian Province of Nova Scotia, where it became not only Canada’s longest-running musical but according to the Guinness Book of Records, the world’s longest-running annual musical theatre production; the play was performed annually from 1965 until 2019; the 2020 production was cancelled due to the COVID.

The 1985 TV version is the best on film to see.

This two-hour production is suitable for all ages. Even a five-year-old that I spoke to, really enjoyed it and understood the story. This wonderful Stirling Players musical is by their teenage actors’ group; it is playing at the Stirling Theatre, Morris Place, in Innaloo each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening at 7.30 until 1st October. There are weekend matinées at 2.00 pm on September the 18th, 24th and 25th.

The entrance hall has an impressive display including schoolbooks, Cuisenaire rods, raspberry cordial and several genuine Prince Edward Island flags.

The Scene:          1910 in Avonlea – based on the actual town of Cavendish, where the author is buried – on Prince Edward Island in Canada.

The Set: To the left of the stage is a pristine white front door and green trellised porch. The door has stained glass panels at the sides. Through the door is a combined kitchen, dining room and lounge. The walls are chocolate brown, with waist-high, white panelling at the base. A dark oak dresser displayed jars of preserved fruit (locally produced), drinks flagons, bottles and pottery. Centre stage is a round table with a full-length yellow tablecloth, set with fine crockery. The walls display old oil paintings and a map of Prince Edward Island.

On the right of the stage is a short staircase, leading through an invisible wall to Anne’s bedroom behind. A single pine bed with a pale blue patchwork quilt, a bedside table and a stool for her clothes. The walls are pale grey, the carpet brown and the white framed widow with net curtains overlooks a tree.

On the left stage apron is a park bench and trellis, which also acted as Matthew’s car. To the right is the railway station.           Outside the house were flower beds and a genuine water pump.

The Set designers:            fabulous work from Fran Gordon and David Wall.

Set construction:              The construction and finish were exceptional, thanks to David Wall, John Woolrych and Ian Wilson. The set was painted mainly by Nyree Scott, along with Joe Teakle, John Flood, Ryder Scott, and Fran Gordon. The view from the window was the artistic work of Ursula Kotara.

Lighting designer and operator:                 John Woolrych captured the yellow oil lamp glow in the house, contrasted with the bright sunshine outside.

Sound operator:               Mishka Miller (who was also an emergency acting stand-in) capably handled the sound effects and the dozen headsets.

Properties:          The collection included antique Hardy Brothers fishing rods and school slates which really brought the era alive; thanks to Jack Gordon, David Wall, Fran Gordon and cast.

Stage manager:  Kyhla Malaspina and her stagehands, Terase McDonald and Nyree Scott worked swiftly and silently with most changes taking only 5 seconds. A larger scene change was enacted at one side of the stage whilst the acting flowed seamlessly on the other.     

In Avonlea, a social worker Mrs Spencer (Sofia Rippingdale) chats to the stationmaster (Logan Bin Bakar – great characterisation) as they await the arrival of the train. Onboard is Anne – must be spelt with an ‘e’! – Shirley (Jennifer Wright), is a young and very sensitive orphan girl that even God does not like, as he has given her red hair and freckles.

Anne is taken to ‘Green Gables’ farm by a shy but kindly, middle-aged farmer Matthew Cuthbert (Shay Dowley). He seemed surprised at meeting Anne, but it is when Anne meets Matthew’s austere sister Marilla (Ella Scott), who deep down is slightly jealous of Anne’s vivacity, and insists that she was supposed to be getting a boy to help on the farm, certainly not a girl. Feeling rejected yet again, Anne pleads to stay. When a neighbouring busybody, Mrs Rachel Lynde (Madison Reith) insults Anne, Anne gives her a mouthful back again. Things get very rocky for the poor orphan.

At the country school the unpopular teacher, Mr Phillips (Galen Telfer) thinks Anne is a top scholar. Her best friend is their neighbour, Diana Barry (Michaela Logan) who, much to Anne’s chagrin, has black hair and a flawless complexion. Diana has a younger sister, sickly Minnie Mae Barry (Susanna von Perger) and a bad-tempered mother, Mrs Barry (Ariana O’Neill). Another classmate, handsome and witty Gilbert Blythe (Zavier Wileman) teases Anne about her red hair and being a carrot, becoming her arch enemy. For that, he earns her instant hatred, even though he apologises several times. As time passes, however, Anne realizes she no longer hates Gilbert, but her pride and stubbornness keep her from speaking to him.

In the class, Anne’s friends are serene Jane Andrews (Lyra Telfer), and boy-crazy Ruby Gillis (Anneka / Bronte McLennan alternating) who tells the class all about her boyfriends. Tommy Sloane (Boh Dobson) and Billy Turner (Oleks Isaiev) avoid school by going fishing.

She has run-ins with the unpleasant, vain and dishonest Josie Pye (Sarah McDonald), but the minister Mr Allan (Luke Chappell) befriends Anne. Matthew decides to treat Anne to something special and seeks the help of the shop girl (Anneka / Bronte McLennan alternating).

Costume supervisor Fran Gordon, with huge help from the cast, has gathered and created a wonderful collection of clothing most accurate for a hundred years ago.

Musical director Krispin Maesalu has the cast singing beautifully. They sing with gusto and in perfect pitch to the piano accompaniment. The piece de la resistance was the final number. The whole cast sang without any accompaniment and in perfect three-part harmony. Krispin added a tricky little dance sequence to one of the songs – and it worked. Few actors can sing well and dance perfectly at the same time. Fantastic.

Director Fran Gordon must be so proud of this show. The youths – all still at school – had the skills and performances of adults. This ‘youth show’ was not simply one for the grandparents to admire, but for every discerning audience member to enjoy. The chemistry, the pace and for so many of the cast, the characterisations were wonderful.

Fifteen in a few days Jennifer, as Anne, showed every emotion from giggles to tears – and stimulated the audience to shed a few tears as well. A powerful exceptional performance, especially from one as young.
One of the rare shows where everything from the scenery, costumes, acting singing and the power to draw the audience into the poor girl’s sad life. Almost sold out, but a must-see show. Pure quality.