On March 10-12 and 17-19, Forest Moon Theater takes on the daunting task of staging the childhood classic Anne of Green Gables at the Wake Forest Renaissance Centre in Wake Forest, NC. The play is based on the 1908 novel, written by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery (L.M. Montgomery) and adapted for the stage by Peter DeLaurier. This timeless story has been translated into over 20 languages and is taught to school children around the world.
Prior to the start of the show, the school children from the play enter the audience and invite the audience children to play with them. This was a nice touch that it engages the kids into the play early and breaks the Fourth Wall by allowing them to connect with the characters. Once the school teacher rings the recess bell, the kids return to their seats, and the play begins.
We follow the story of a spunky redheaded 11-year-old orphaned girl named Anne Shirley, who is mistakenly sent to brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert after a mix-up at the orphanage. Although they initially were looking for a boy to help on the farm, they realize that Anne is special and decide to make her part of the family.
Anne (with an E, because it is more sophisticated) is highly imaginative, adventurous, and eager to please. Elly Boldizar portrays Anne with energy and honesty. In the initial scene with Matthew Cuthbert (Wayne Burtoft), we get an instant look at her imagination when she names the farm “Green Gables” and her need to be loved. One of the funnier moments of the play occurs when Anne accidentally gets her bosom friend Diana (Ellie Manfreda) drunk on red wine that she mistakes for raspberry cordials.
Director Tony Pender takes an interesting approach as Anne ages, by splitting the cast into adolescent Anne and friends, then transitioning them into adult versions. This is allows the tender, more serious moments of the play to have a maturer impact.
Abby Jordan plays the adult Anne with a sweet romantic innocence, yet has a confident inner strength, especially when she is in competition for head of the class with school boy Gilbert Sullivan (Michael Southern). There are also some nice quiet moments with Anne’s adopted mother Marilla Cuthbert (Tracy Weekman).
The costumes were beautiful and historically accurate. Although no specific costumer is credited, the program gives special thanks to Jenny Mitchell (Raleigh Little Theatre), Laura Parker (N.C. State University Theatre), and the Boldizar family.
Using the Wake Forest Renaissance Centre for a staged production presents many challenges. The sheer size of the room dwarfs the seating and stage area. Despite sitting on the second row, this reviewer found it hard to hear and understand the young actors in particular. Due to the way the stage is built, there were only two ways to leave the stage, which made for some creative exits.
There are a lot of scenes and set changes during the show that dragged down the momentum a little. It would have been more visually appealing if some of the scenes had been lit as vignettes instead of employing multiple blackouts to complete set changes. However, not knowing the exact limitations of the lighting, this may not have been possible. Friday, March 10th, was opening night for the show, so as the technical crew should get more comfortable with the set in subsequent performances, and make changes that help pick up the pace.
Anne of Green Gables is a nice old-fashioned play, with valuable messages. Sometimes, the unexpected is exactly what you need; and perseverance and love will always give you strength.
SECOND OPINION: March 11th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Alan R. Hall: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=8405.
Forest Moon Theater presents ANNE OF GREEN GABLES at 7:30 p.m. March 11, 3 p.m. March 12, 7:30 p.m. March 17 and 18, and 3 p.m. March 19 in the Wake Forest Renaissance Centre, 405 S. Brooks St., Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587. NOTE: There will be special daytime performances for schools at 9 and 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 16th.
TICKETS: $15 in advance ($13 students 18 and under and seniors 65+) and $18 day of show ($16 students 18 and under and seniors 65+). BOX OFFICE: 919-435-9458 or http://www.etix.com/.
2016-17 SEASON: http://www.forestmoontheater.org/current-season/.
Anne of Green Gables (1908 novel): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_of_Green_Gables (Wikipedia).
Lucy Maud Montgomery (Canadian novelist, 1874-1942): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Maud_Montgomery (Wikipedia).
Anne of Green Gables (2007 play): https://www.playscripts.com/play/1729 (Playscripts, Inc.).
Peter DeLaurier (playwright): https://www.playscripts.com/playwrights/bios/930 (Playscripts, Inc. bio).
D. Anthony Pender (director): http://nsvt.woodmr.net/tony-pender (NSVT: Theatre in the Carolinas & Virginia bio)).
Shannon Plummer-White is no stranger to the stage! She studied Musical Theater & Opera at the American Musical Dramatic Academy in New York City, and has appeared in films such as Iron Man 3 and Safe Haven. She has also performed with the North Carolina Master Chorale and the North Carolina Symphony. When she isn’t on stage or making magic behind the scenes, she can be found in the art studio playing with fire and molten glass. She is an animal advocate with a special love of cats. She has four rescued fur children and a very supportive husband. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.