Photo credits:  Karen McKinnon Photography

Charlotte Greaves as Anne, Esther Donovan as Marilla, Tony Arnold as Matthew, Sarah Collins as Diana in CLT’s production of “Anne of Green Gables” at the Sid Williams Theatre Dec. 23rd to 31st, 2017

by Lynn Hodge

Courtenay Little Theatre is presenting the Canadian classic musical, ‘Anne of Green Gables’, based on the beloved novel by Lucy Maude Montgomery, as its family Christmas production at the Sid Williams Theatre from December 23rd to 31st. This is CLT’s third Canadian production in 2017, celebrating Canada’s 150 year anniversary, along with its award-winning production of ‘The Drawer Boy’ and this fall’s mystery, ‘Evelyn Strange’.

CLT’s ‘Anne of Green Gables’ is the same musical that has been on the Charlottetown , Prince Edward Island stage for the last 53 years. Written by Don Harron and Norm Campbell, it is full of wonderful lyrical songs and entertaining choreography. This is the perfect show for families to enjoy together.

Anne (spelled with an ‘e’!) Shirley is an unforgettably loveable character who is sure to win your heart (again). She arrives as a surprise into the lives of a sister and brother, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, who were expecting a boy from the orphanage. Anne becomes bosom friends with Diana Barry, survives challenging days at her new school, and catches the eye of Gilbert Blythe.

CLT has an amazing team working to get this production on stage. Director Brian Mather is using his 50 years of experience to bring his vision to life. In recent years, Mather has wowed audiences with productions like ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Anything Goes’, and ‘Narnia’. Denise Marquette has been his musical director for the former two shows and, most recently, Three Legged Dog’s production of ‘Guys and Dolls’. Award winning set designer Jay Crowder has designed another fabulous set, including a panoramic quilt of PEI that is a true work of art. Choreographer Natasha Kozak has the cast members dancing and skipping up a storm. Producers Val Macdonald and Shari Jakubiec and Stage Manager Sharon Pridham oversee teams of CLT members working behind the scenes: designers and builders, costumers and dressers, painters and sewers, printers and creators.

The cast is a fine mixture of seasoned actors and exciting newcomers. The coveted role of Anne is played by 15 year old Charlotte Greaves. Her astounding young voice fills the CLT space and, as she develops her portrayal of Anne, rehearsals are a joy to watch. Well-known and long-time CLT actor, Tony Arnold, plays Matthew Cuthbert. Arnold’s roles over the past 45 years are memorable: Salieri in ‘Amadeus’, Norman in two productions of ‘On Golden Pond’, and the Man in the Chair in ‘Drowsy Chaperone’. Arnold’s rendition of Matthew’s growing love for Anne is poignant.

New to CLT but not to the Comox Valley, Esther Donovan plays Marilla Cuthbert and has recently returned from Princeton, B.C. Her previous theatre experiences include directing, producing, and playing dramatic leads. Sarah Collins plays Anne’s best friend, Diana, in her first major role. Joe Taylor-Harding, who plays Gilbert, is enjoying his second lead role. Both of these young actors have been involved in many Rainbow Youth Theatre and Courtenay Youth Music Centre musicals.

Valley audiences may recall that past productions of ‘Anne of Green Gables’ showcased some remarkable performances. Previous Annes (Emma Tompkins RYT 1999 , Erin Humpherys RYT 2011) continued their musical theatre careers in university and college, with Humpherys now acting professionally in Toronto. Earlier Matthews (Sid Williams, Steve Gordon, Patrick McKenna) and Marillas (Debra Wiens, Val Macdonald) have graced the Sid stage in many fabulous CLT productions before and since. Connor Lucas (Gilbert RYT 2011) has been working professionally during and since his 2017 graduation from Canada’s top musical theatre college. Alexandria Wharram (Diana RYT 1999) works in London England on stage and as a voice teacher.

Musicals like ‘Anne of Green Gables’ are loved by audiences for their story, characters, and some fabulous music. As Musical Director, Denise Marquette conducts an orchestra of 14 topnotch musicians. Instruments for this production include strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion, all anchored by rehearsal pianist Dagmar Kilian. Unlike previous shows, Marquette has been fortunate to acquire a harpist, a rarity in the valley. Attending ‘Anne’ this Christmas will be a ‘4 for 1’ for audiences: fine dramatic acting, soaring melodic choral work, superb instrumental renditions, and an amazing set.

Buy your tickets now for ‘Anne of Green Gables’ at the Sid Williams Theatre. Matinées are: December 23rd, 26th, and 30th at 2:00 pm, $23. Evening shows are: Dec. 27th, 28th, 29th, with the popular New Year’s Eve celebration performance on closing night, Dec. 31st 7:30 pm, $25 per ticket. Take advantage of CLT’s FlexPass (6 tickets for the price of 5), for any CLT performance. (250) 338-2430. Don’t miss this popular Christmas treat!