ANNE OF GREEN GABLES

Exit 22/Capilano University Productions, The Blueshore Financial Centre for the Performing Arts until 24th March

My Two Cents

By Lillian Jasper

 

Capilano University’s production of Anne Of Green Gables is as sweet and wholesome as they come. The musical itself is definitely showing signs of age, but it’s so gosh-darned sincere and expertly done by these up-and-coming young talents.

It’s easy to see why the story of Anne (with an ‘e’) Shirley has endured. She’s bursting with imagination and zest for life despite being moved through various homes and orphanages throughout her childhood. Alexandra Ewert’s Anne is articulate and feisty, and she has a fine voice and appropriately youthful physicality. In fact, all the actors playing students display such energy and enthusiasm that the show’s pace picks up dramatically when they turn up. With that being said, I wish overall that it could have been snappier. There’s no need for a musical with a plot this thin to be 2 1/2 hours, especially since it will appeal largely to youth and families. However, I was present on preview night, so hopefully it will tighten up as the run continues.

The production elements are outstanding. Barbara Gregusova’s costumes are a perfect picture of early 1900’s Canadian farm life. The pastel and flowy florals match a perfect painted backdrop, as well as Brian Ball’s sturdy sets and the authentic-looking props. Kudos to the cast and crew for the seamless and organic scene changes.

The most enjoyable parts of the show, for me, were the dance numbers. Endlessly inventive and playful and skillfully performed, Keri Minty’s choreography captures the infectious enthusiasm that Anne brings to Avonlea. I’ve never enjoyed an egg-and-spoon race more! Caleb Lagayan as Gilbert Blythe is a star in the making, not just for his exceptional dancing skills but his clear joy of performing. I honestly couldn’t fault any of these talented young performers; this is a class of soon-to-be professionals.

It’s a shame the songs aren’t better - they are all simple and standard fare, some almost cloying. The cast blend well vocally and the orchestra, under Arielle Ballance’s music direction, make it sound easy. I will say I loved the Act 2 show-stopper “Open The Window” sung by Miss Stacy (Fiorella Artoni) and the kids about the joys of outdoor education. 

Parts of the show feel dated - for instance, the Prissy/Mr. Phillips plotline reads as downright creepy in this day and age. Nonetheless, it is a family-friendly story of a young woman who stays true to herself against all odds. Anne is ahead of her time - she does not conform to the quaint small-town expectations. It’s an important message for young girls, and it’s never in doubt that she is the one we’re meant to root for. How refreshing, too, to see a young male character take ownership of the hurt his bullying has caused (even if the adults don’t always see it that way).     

Anne Of Green Gables is Canada’s longest-running musical, having been performed annually in Charlottetown since the 1960’s. Under the direction of Kevin Michael Cripps, Capilano’s production is overall delightful. It may be a bit corny, but complaining about that seems almost unpatriotic. This show will no doubt make a fine treat for fans and also serve as a worthy introduction to young folks who may not yet be familiar with the enduring Canadian icon that is Anne Shirley.