“What good will she be to us?’ says Marilla Cuthbert, who had commissioned a young orphan boy to help her brother on their farm, Green Gables. “We might be some good to her,” responds Matthew, Marilla’s sibling. Anne, the girl they got instead of a boy, has already captivated him just on the short ride back from the train station, as the character did with so many readers of Lucy Maud Montgomery novel “Anne of Green Gables.”
Hands down, Anne Shirley (that’s Anne with an “e!”) is one of literature’s most beloved characters. The orphan girl who charms her way into a home, a hometown and more is precocious, smart and downright adorable. Making this story into a musical is an added bonus for theatergoers, and the Cape Cod Theatre Company’s production of “Anne of Green Gables, The Musical” is like hitting the jackpot. (Credit for the script, music and lyrics: Norman Campbell and Donald Harron, with additional lyrics by Mayor Moore and Elaine Campbell.)
If you loved the book, you won’t be disappointed; the simple yet lovely songs are skillfully woven into the story and the story stays true to the book. Director Susan Kosoff has deftly transformed the CCTC/HJT stage into the town of Avonlea and all its residents are there.
Madison Mayer is absolutely spot-on delightful as Anne. The young actor is expressive, has a lovely singing voice and can dance. Mayer is one to keep an eye on; grab her autograph at the traditional meet-and-greet this theater has after the show. Mayer’s performance is splendidly complemented by the extremely talented group of actors who surround her. Wil Moser nails Gilbert Blythe’s frustrations with Anne and is a triple threat himself as he sings and dances with panache. The two have super chemistry. Celia Cota as Diana, Anne’s best friend, and Carrie Tully as Josie Pye were both striking in their own way, and each of these young actors (Kate Paxton, Perry Gill, Scarlet O’Malley, Susannah Brown, Quinn Schuyler, Tyler Brackett, Peter Vujs and Shaw Schuyler) have moments to shine, and shine they do.
The grown-ups in Avonlea are great, too. Jane Staab plays Marilla. What a treat it was to watch the stern woman slowly soften from the inside out. It’s a subtle transformation that grabs at your heartstrings. Paul Widegren is excellent as the softie Matthew. Watching Anne bring out the child in him was fun to see. Steph DeFerie as Rachel and Kathy Hamilton as Lucilla made us laugh, and the rest of the womenfolk (Jennifer Kangas, Sherrie Smith Scudder, Marissa Milkey, Fabienne Wilcox, Fran Covais Lautenberger with Diana Milkey some nights) were full of song and mischief as well. The men of the village (Jack Watts, Paul Anastasio, Alex Antonellis, and Jack Coughlin) joined in and added an additional layer of aplomb to the many song and dance numbers. The Act One closing production of “Ice Cream” was delicious. Kudos to Laurel Conrad for her choreography there, and again in the closing tableau for “If It Hadn’t Been For Me.” Dana McCoy as new teacher Miss Stacy gave off a joie de vivre that was contagious.
James P. Byrne’s set design conveyed so much and yet left lots of room for the grand ensemble numbers. Byrne’s lighting and J Hagenbuckle’s sound design, musical director Robert Wilder and his band (Amanda Kosloski and Tony Stevens), technical director Matthew Kohler, plus Lautenberger’s detailed period costumes all add up to one lavish production. Back stage these folks (Coughlin, stage manager; Hannah McLaughlin, light board; Fiona Pina Parker and Jack Kwaak, sound operators; and Rachel Simmons, crew) hit the cues and move the all the pieces reliably.
“Anne of Green Gables” is a true family musical. It’s two hours (with a 10-minute intermission) of feel-good fun. Grandma, grab your granddaughter and make this an outing for the two of you! Or bring the whole family!
"Anne of Green Gables, The Musical"
Through July 16, Tuesdays-Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 4 p.m. No show on Tuesday July 4.
Information and reservations: 508-432-2002, ext. 2, www.capecodtheatrecompany.org