Anne of Green Gables, The Musical

Press Release
April 28, 2012

The Belleville Theatre Guild,  - 256 Pinnacle Street, Belleville
(613) 967-1442

Cast Member: Anne of Green Gables, The Musical: Braelyn Guppy as Anne Shirley

Anne of Green Gables, The Musical

Belleville: The Grande Finale of our 60th Anniversary Season at The Belleville Theatre Guild is Anne of Green Gables, The Musical.

Meet the world’s most beloved red head, as she arrives at Avonlea to start a new life. This play is based on the book written in 1908, by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The world has flocked to Prince Edward Island ever since to see the magical place where Anne Shirley and her creator lived.

The idea for the musical version of the book came about when Norman and Elaine Campbell visited Don Harron and he gave them the book Anne of Green Gables, suggesting that it would make a musical. The three prepared a musical version, which was broadcast in 1956 on the CBC as a TV movie. Mavor Moore, the founding artistic director of Charlottetown’s Confederation Arts Centre, used a song from that movie in their first variety performance. Queen Elizabeth II was in the audience. A stage version was then written, with the premier in 1965 at the Charlottetown Festival. It has been performed every summer since, making this Canada’s longest running main stage musical.

Vocal lyrics are by Donald Harron and Norman Campbell, music by Norman Campbell, additional lyrics by Mavor Moore and Elaine Campbell and the musical orchestrations were arranged by John Fenwick.

Producer Dave Henderson and Director Lise Lindenberg held auditions that attracted 93 actors. The casting decisions were difficult, but Lindenberg said “We have the best Anne and Gilbert. Braelyn Guppy won the coveted role of Anne Shirley, and Phillip Merriman was cast as Gilbert. They are both triple threats; they can sing, act, and dance!”

Moira Nikander-Forrester and Jack Evans play brother and sister, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. Anne Arcand has the role of Rachel Lynde, and Maija Thompson plays Diana Barry.

Lindenberg said, “We have a keen group that works very hard four nights a week with at least 15 newcomers to our stage.” The huge cast features 30 actors with an orchestra of 8 led by John McFarlane.

For our diamond anniversary, the Guild has been presenting plays that have been crowd pleasers in the past. When asked why she chose this script, Lindenberg said, “Anne of Green Gables is a totally Canadian story about a spunky young heroine who still makes us laugh 100 years after she was created. Anne and the people of Avonlea remind me of what it might be like to live in a small town in Ontario. Like thousands of other girls, I read Anne when I was 12 and she has stuck with me all these years.”

Our first production was performed at B.C.I in March of 1976. It was directed by David Farmer and produced by Vera Morton. That production featured Katherine Smithirim as Anne and John Wilkinson as Gilbert. Marilla and Matthew were played by Iris Sanderson and Peter Kitcher. Sharon Poitras played Rachel Lynde and Rosemary Farmer played Diana Barry.

That cast also included well-known actors such as Susan Dawe, Liz Marshall, Janet Loynes, Leslie Farmer, Ann Hoy, Bruce Nickson, David Kidd, Robert Johnson, Robert McKnight, Burle Summers, Rob Clement and Heather Storms (who was also the choreographer). Eleanor Jourard did the costumes, and luxury home builder Wayne Storms built the set. We have been told that it was the best built set ever, with 2 X 4 beams. “Nothing could knock that down”, said Farmer.

There are other ties between the two productions. Farmer is the Music Director on this show as he was on the first. His wife, Carol Farmer, was the Rehearsal Accompanist on the original, and she is sharing those duties this time with Donna Douglas. Christine Jensen-Reid appeared in the original as Mrs. Pye, and in this production she plays Mrs. Sloane, another one of the town ladies.

Our set is amazing. Designed by Perry Poupore, it allows for 30 dancing people. With creative lighting and a scrim, we will create the interior of Green Gables. The choreography by Moira Nikander-Forrester involves school yard scenes, a picnic, and a nature hunt, where schoolhouse benches are transformed into a dock and canoes.

Anne of Green Gables, The Musical features two previews* on May 27th and 28th, opening night on May 31st with performances through June 17th. There will be a total of 16 performances, including 3 Sunday matinees.

The exciting draw for the 9 diamond gold ring courtesy of O’Connor’s Jewel Box will be made on Opening Night May 31st. Tickets are $5.00 each or 3 for $10.00.

Don’t miss this show. Tickets are $22.00 for Adults and $10.00 for Students and for the special preview performances. They can be purchased through our box office at 613-967-1442 or reserved online at www.bellevilletheatreguild.ca/Tickets.htm.

The Belleville Theatre Guild offers elevator service right in to the theatre, a barrier-free washroom and room in the front row for wheel chairs and other mobility devices. See you at the Pinnacle Playhouse!

Anne of Green Gables, The Musical

based on the story by Lucy Maude Montgomery
Book by Don Harron. Lyrics by Don Harron and Norman Campbell.
Additional lyrics by Mavor Moore and Elaine Campbell

Submitted by
Debra Tosh
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