Theatre Calgary closes its mainstage season with a gorgeous production of the timeless Canadian treasure, Anne of Green Gables
Theatre Calgary’s (TC) final production at the Max Bell Theatre this season is a gorgeous production of the Canadian musical theatre classic, Anne of Green Gables. Brilliantly directed by TC’s artistic director, Dennis Garnhum and choreographed by world-renowned choreographer, Lisa Stevens, TC's Anne of Green Gables showcases the talents of Canada’s theatre crème de la crème in a truly exquisite production.
Based on L.M. Montgomery’s timeless tale of young Anne Shirley and her journey from an outcast orphan, to a young woman who captivates and touches the hearts and souls of everyone in her town, the stage production is presented annually on Prince Edward Island as part of the world famous Charlottetown Theatre Festival. How wonderful it is then, to witness this highly acclaimed musical right here in YYC.
TC’s production features a cast that combines Canada’s top young musical theatre performers with some of Canada’s legendary musical theatre masters. And it is none other than young Jill Agopsowicz, a recent Randolph Academy graduate, who brilliantly leads this production, in the role of Anne Shirley. Agopsowicz’s crystal clear, nightingale voice is absolutely stunning and the combination of her top notch singing and acting, produces an Anne Shirley that is smart, genuine, heartwarming and delightful to watch. It’s truly magnificent watching Agopsowicz’s Anne mature and develop.
Jeremy Crittenden is a young theatre actor that has definitely made his mark in Canadian theatre, having played leading roles in theatres across the nation, and no doubt stealing the hearts of many young theatre goers, with his adorable charm! Crittenden’s portrayal of Gilbert Blythe, the romantic interest of Anne Shirley is indeed adorable and charming. As always, it is also a treat to hear Crittenden’s outstanding vocal performance as well.
But what story is complete without a resident mean girl? Anna Hurshman is hilarious in the role of sassy chick, Josie Pye. Meanwhile, Jaclyn Herder is cute and charming in the role of Prissy Andrews, the school girl whose relationship with teacher, Mr. Phillips, scandalously goes beyond the classroom. I often watch individual cast members during large ensemble numbers, because I highly appreciate the work of ensemble members. Herder was especially wonderful to watch in the Act one finale number, Ice Cream, where her pleasant smile lit up the stage!
Jennie Neumann, who has lit up the theatre scene in Vancouver, shows Calgary why she is the talk of the west coast theatre community, with her wonderfully engaging portrayal of Diana Barry, Anne’s BFF. One of the highlights of the production is when Diana accidentally gets wasted from drinking homemade wine! Neumann’s comic timing and awesome laugh is definitely a delight. Thomas Alderson also brings great comic timing to the show, with his goofy portrayal of class clown, Moody MacPherson. Meanwhile, the great Liz Tookey is gorgeous as always, playing Josie’s sister, Gertie. Tookey’s excellent dancing and characterization is beautiful to watch!
Avonlea seems like it would be a super fun place to grow up and a great training ground for aspiring dancers, as the kids in town all happen to be amazing dancers! Choreographer Lisa Stevens has set enchanting choreography upon the strong ensemble of dancers, showcasing their excellent technique in ballet and jazz. Stunning lines, jumps, turns and movement is presented front and centre in this production! Best of all, the choreography is extremely clean – kudos to dance captain, Robert Allan for his efforts!
The adults in Avonlea are played by some of our nations greatest actors to ever grace the stage. The incomparable Colleen Winton, who has performed in shows from coast to coast, including productions with the Stratford, Shaw and Charlottetown Festivals, as well as the original Canadian companies of Cats and Show Boat, brings her well developed acting chops to the Max Bell stage in the role of Marilla Cuthbert, Anne’s adoptive mother. Barrie Wood, another Canadian theatre veteran who has also performed at Stratford, Charlottetown, and in the mega-musicals Cats, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Crazy For You, plays the role of Marilla’s brother Matthew. Wood shows that no matter how old you get, you an always stay a triple threat, exemplified by his strong acting, singing and dancing! Together, Winton and Wood deliver heartwarming performances, no doubt enhanced by their many years of experience. It was an honour to see these two acclaimed actors on the Max Bell stage.
I also quite enjoyed Brigitte Robinson, Nora McLellan and Jan Alexandra Smith in the roles of Mrs. Pye/Mrs. Spencer, Rachel Lynde, and Mrs. Barry. These three ladies also hold incredibly impressive resumes, and it was so much fun to watch them strut their stuff in their comical roles, helping to lighten to mood of the show and add brilliant colour to the town of Avonlea! Lastly, Leora Joy Godden is wonderfully refreshing in the role of Miss Stacey, Anne’s school teacher and mentor, who encourages Anne to reach for her potential.
I would also like to extend kudos to Patrick Clark’s set and costume design as well as Gerald King’s lighting design. The stunning work of these two gentlemen has helped create a captivating and picturesque storybook Avonlea that is enchanting and captivating! Combined with the other strong elements of the production, including the outstanding direction, choreography and performances, TC’s final mainstage production of the season is a gorgeous theatrical experience that will touch your heart and inspire you. If you have yet to experience TC’s Anne of Green Gables, book your tickets today! You will not forget this wonderful production.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Don't forget to check out Theatre Calgary's upcoming summer Shakespeare in the Park production of Romeo and Juliet!