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‘Anne of Green Gables’ sings

Music enlivens this classic tale at Canyon Theatre Guild

Posted: April 6, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Updated: April 6, 2012 6:00 a.m.

Marcus Langston (Gilbert Blythe) and Sandra Kate Burck (Anne Shirley) pretend they don’t like each other. This musical version of the classic novel runs on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. through April 29, with a 6 p.m. performance on Sunday, April 22.

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The musical "Anne of Green Gables" opened at the Canyon Theatre Guild in Newhall this weekend, and for yours truly, viewing it on Sunday afternoon, it provided a sweet and charming finish to an exhausting weekend. From the opening ensemble number, where most of the cast members, younger and older, filled the stage with song, to the uplifting finish, I couldn't stop smiling.

In the early 1900s, Anne Shirley, a young orphan, arrives in the small town of Avonlea on Price Edward Island. She has been sent to bachelor Matthew Cuthbert and his "old maid" sister Marilla Cuthbert, who are to care for her on their Green Gables farm. They were expecting a boy, which is the first of a series of obstacles Anne must overcome. With pluck and charm and a genuine good heart, Anne does overcome all obstacles and wins nearly everyone she meets over in no time. This is a sweet and innocent story, with the moral that a true heart is rewarded in the end.

"Anne is able to quiet her mind and find that still small voice that tells her what she needs to do," said Director John Morris. "And this is as applicable now as any time in history."

He noted that the songs in the production help move the plot along, but the musical aspects of the show made it a very involved project, with an ensemble cast, requiring the assistance of a vocal director and a choreographer.

As typical with most productions at the CTG, my favorite songs were the ensemble pieces, with multiple voices blending and gaining strength from each other. However there were solos and duets and trios that were well harmonized and quite moving as well.

The sets are simple yet delightful, and I felt the production was well-cast in all the important parts. Morris felt similarly. "The cast was amazing," he said. "They put in a lot of effort over the last three months. I look back and I can't see how this could have been cast any other way."

Naturally, the show hinges on the character of Anne, and Sandra Kate Burck is outstanding in that role. Anne is overly dramatic whenever the need arises, and Burck pulls this off hilariously. She also has a pretty good singing voice and excellent timing and presence.

Randy Aronson and Rosemary Moffat are also well-cast as Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. His good-humored openness and her resistance to opening up play well off each other, and both characters bring a sense of family and security to the world around Anne that is very satisfying.

Virginia Stewart is great fun as the busybody Rachel Lynde. With a strong presence and voice to match, you start out being annoyed by her but end up enjoying the way she noses into everything.

Tyler Joy plays Diana Barry, Anne's best friend. She is very sweet in this one-note role, but you have the feeling she could do a lot more, given the opportunity.

Marcus Langston plays Gilbert Blythe, Anne's early antagonist and later loving friend. Langston carries this off quite well, and he also seems to have more to offer than the role allows.

Alianna Medlen plays the brat Josie Pye perfectly, and any time the focus is on Anne, you can look at Josie and catch a little disdainful something going on. Good fun.

The rest of the cast, too numerous to mention, supports well, including several actors who play multiple parts, such as Robert Brady, Steven Brock, Dan Cragan and Laura Fetzer.

So, if you and the kids need a lift next weekend, I suggest "Anne of Green Gables." It's good fun and an, ultimately, uplifting story. Performances are at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays April 1, 7, 14, 21, 28, 29 and a 6 p.m. performance on Sunday, April 22. Tickets are $12 for juniors and seniors and $15 for adults. The Canyon Theatre Guild is located at 24242 Main Street, in Old Town Newhall. Call the box office at (661) 799-2702.


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