Anne of Green Gables
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by Henfield Theatre Company - A NODA review by Dee Sharpe
From the novel by L M Montgomery. Adapted by Donald Harron. Music by Norman Campbell. Lyrics by Donald Harron and Norman Campbell
What a wonderful and surprising evening I had when I went to see Anne of Green Gables at Henfield Hall. Not having done my homework (although I know the classic novel) I did not realise it was a musical, so it was an unexpected treat especially with the wonderful orchestra providing the accompaniment to songs such as ‘Ice Cream’, ‘Wondrin’’ and ‘Humble Pie’ – my particular favourites.
Enchanting, energetic, charming and uplifting are all words that describe this performance, and this list is not exhaustive. This fabulous show was clearly the result of the outstanding teamwork and professionalism of this gifted group.
The large cast included adults of all ages and children; and each actor played their part wholeheartedly creating a real feel-good factor.
I must mention the immense detail and work that went into the set design and changes. An image such as the railway station, the Cuthbert’s cottage, or schoolhouse were projected onto a curtain. In front of this a small scene occurred while the set behind the curtain was transformed. Anne’s upstairs bedroom was a lovely touch with the ladder leading outside where she joined Matthew for ‘Humble Pie.’
The musical is based on the classic Canadian novel and tells the story of Anne Shirley, who has left her orphanage to live with Marilla and her brother Matthew in Avonlea a small town on Prince Edward Island. However, they are expecting a boy to help on the farm not a fiery-tempered, imaginative chatterbox like Anne (with an ‘e’). The tale unfolds to show how, despite various scrapes, Anne wins the hearts of Matthew and Marilla and the entire town.
Mentioning some names unfortunately means excluding others, due to such a large cast; so before I do, I must reiterate that every actor played their part to perfection and the entire ensemble worked as one to produce an exceptional performance.
Ellie Rayward brought to life the whimsical, harum-scarum, firecracker Anne Shirley that I imagined years ago when I read the book – thank you. She is also a skilled vocalist with a clear sweet strong voice and an engaging delivery.
I must mention here, that on the previous night, Ellie was taken ill at the last minute which meant that Phoebe Ralph had to stand in while director Lesley Barnes took Phoebe’s role of Lucilla. Although I did not see the performance, I have heard many accounts of what a wonderful performance she gave, so well-done Phoebe, for a fantastic job in saving the show.
Nicky Haines as practical, brusque but gold-hearted Marilla, perplexed by Anne’s wild enthusiasms and uncontrolled furies and Martin Love as the soft, kind-hearted doting father figure Matthew, glad to guide and champion her were perfectly cast. The interplay between the three was convincing, generating empathy for each and I particularly loved Matthew and Anne’s ‘Humble pie’ duet.
Ewan Fairchild mixed vulnerability, boyish charm and bolshiness to create a perfect lovelorn Gilbert Blythe while Isabelle Lucy-Fernandez sparkled, as loyal, funny best friend Diana.
Anne Stern played a cracking Mrs Lynde while Charlie Hoddell bustled beautifully as Diana’s protective Mama Mrs Barry, Isabelle Cryer played progressive school mistress Miss Stacy with gusto, humour and a fabulous voice.
The choreography of the picnic races with the amount of cast on stage, the standard of singing in ensemble, duet and solo performances, and the acting skills of the group as well as the costumes and set made my guest (my sister) ask how much everyone got paid. She was stunned to discover it was an amateur production so huge credit goes to director Lesley Barnes.
This story could easily be overly treacly and sentimental but because Anne is clearly not perfect, with a wild imagination, a furious temper and runaway tongue. Marilla, brusque but clearly good-hearted and every character had human and humorous traits it was pure wholesome entertainment; and a joy to watch this singing and dancing delight.