Volume 93, Issue 56
Wednesday, December 8, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Grand production a comforting classic
Photo by Off Broadway
NOW I CAN SWIM AND GO HORSEBACK RIDING WITHOUT WORRYING. The Grand Theatre's new production of Anne is a comforting success which is running until Dec. 22.
By Brad Lister
There's always been something oddly comforting about Anne of Green Gables. This plucky Canadian heroine has gained fame all over the world in her numerous incarnations.
Comforting is exactly how to describe the Grand Theatre's current production of Anne, which is Paul Ledoux's adaptation of Lucy Maude Montgomery's famous tale.
The Grand's artistic director, Kelly Handerek, does a wonderful job in his directorial debut. This mix of veteran actors and newcomers inhabit their roles as if they were a comfortable pair of shoes. You get the feeling that they're very much at home.
The play unfolds in flashbacks, as the townsfolk reminisce about when they first met Anne. There is a nice rhythm to everything while the play retains a relaxed manner and atmosphere, the production is never dull or boring. Handerek has paced the actors well and as a result, the humorous parts stand out nicely.
Amy Walsh plays the title role of the delightful redhead with such an "aw-shucks" attitude that the audience can't help but feel a certain adornment for her character. Having already played in the hit Stratford Festival production of West Side Story and in their premi¸re production of Dracula, the musically talented Walsh has proven she is up to any challenge and rises to the test beautifully in Anne. In addition to the innocent quality that she portrays so well, Walsh displays a keen grasp of the spunky nature that this heroine has traditionally exhibited.
Walsh is well supported by a fine cast which includes Catherine Bruce and Andy McFarlane as Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert respectively. As Anne's guardians, both McFarlane and Bruce make a perfectly crotchety pair and often prove to be scene stealers.
One such instance has Matthew thinking the dresses his sister makes are too boring to be worn to a class graduation, so he goes to the store to buy material for a fancy new one. Unfortunately, he can't seem to bring himself to ask for it. Before town gossip Rachel Lynde (Valerie Boyle) arrives to help him, Matthew has already purchased 20 pounds of brown sugar and a rake even though he needs neither of these items.
Robert Doyle makes his Grand Theatre debut as a set designer and produces inspiring scenery and costumes for the show. Green Gables has a very interesting greenish tinge to it and the whole house is painted in a unique manner it's almost the colour of a copper penny, effectivly evoking a certain agedness to the whole place. It nicely plays on the relaxed comfortable feel of the whole production.
The only quibble with the whole play revolves around Matthew's fate in the second act. As the play moves into present tense and the entire cast is gathered in Matthew and Marilla's living room, the events which follow disrupt the comfortable pace of the production.
That aside, Anne is an enjoyable trip down memory lane and a victory for the Grand Theatre's holiday season.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999