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Review: ANNE OF GREEN GABLES: A NEW MUSICAL at The Goodspeed

Review: ANNE OF GREEN GABLES: A NEW MUSICAL at The Goodspeed

Now on stage at The Goodspeed through September 4th

A brand new musical, Anne of Green Gables, is at The Goodspeed now through September 4, 2022. The classic story is brought to life in a heartfelt and clever folk-rock musical with beautifully developed and charming characters.

Young Anne Shirley, a spunky, sharp-witted, melodramatic orphan with fiery red hair has arrived to Prince Edward Island and been adopted by siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert of Green Gables farm. When Anne goes off to school, she makes friends, enemies, frenemies, and big waves in their town, Avonlea. We come to know and love her schoolmates, teachers, neighbors, and family, watching them all grow together.

Anne of Green Gables features book & lyrics by Matte O'Brien (White Noise, The Wonderful Mr. & Mrs. O'Leary, Peter & I), with music by Matt Vinson (Peter & I, Exiles in Paradise, Doing Nothing All Day). It is based on the novel by L.M. Montgomery. The music and lyrics are simply fantastic! There's something for everyone to enjoy. Each character is beautifully developed and nuanced. In the writers' notes, O'Brien says, "Our vision was always a a show that felt simultaneously classic and contemporary," and they certainly achieved it. The writing is so smart and much of the social commentary is not only welcomed, but absolutely needed today. It's rare to see so many strong characters and different kinds of relationships (familial, collegial, platonic, amorous) portrayed seamlessly in one story.

Anne of Green Gables, an original and modern musical, has creativity and beauty abound. It's got the sharp wit and stylistic speed of Gilmore Girls, nods to award-winning Broadway musical favorites Wicked, The Bridges of Madison County, The Drowsy Chaperone, and more; all blended together into something entirely new and exciting.

The cast is absolutely stellar, no holds barred, and charmed the audience with superb performances from start to finish. The ensemble is so radiantly gleeful that I can't imagine any of them have had even a bad hair day in all their lives. Their joyful energy was refreshing, not to mention their virtuosic vocals consistently wowed.

"Perfection fits me perfectly," is absolutely right when describing leading lady, Juliette Redden as Anne Shirley. Redden made Anne precocious yet relatable, charming, hilariously melodramatic, and smart. My favorite number, So Sorry is golden and it is impossible not to love Redden. In Forever, a gorgeous song with fantastic slow motion choreography, featured her fantastic high belt and that's not all: In Anne's Response, Redden's virtuosity shined and she made it look effortless. Her delivery of Anne's one liners actually made me audibly react and really resonated. Such an impactful and phenomenal performer!

D.C. Anderson, as Matthew Cuthbert, is a diamond who gripped our hearts the moment he stepped on stage. With his great comic timing, endearing expressions, and especially touching performance in Matthew's Song, Anderson drew us in and never let go. He is magnificent and I cannot wait to see what he does next.

Pierre Marais, as Gilbert, is absolutely wonderful and his love song was beautiful. They don't make them like this anymore, but they absolutely should!

Sharon Catherine Brown, as Marilla Cuthbert, is another highlight amongst this golden company. Her superb voice in Marilla's Song brought tears to my eyes in the first phrase and her virtuosity garnered well-deserved applause mid-song as she was so undeniably impressive. I wish I had a soundtrack for her song especially.

Aurelia Williams, as Rachel Lynde, is hilarious, vibrant, and her velvet voice is a dream come true. Her song, Make a Move, is glorious. An audience favorite for good reason, I instantly adored her and looked forward to each one of her scenes.

Michelle Veintimilla, as the simple, but sincere Diana Berry, is a rare gem! Her iconic comedy timing and delivery, sweet singing voice, and truly impactful performance were one of my favorite things about the show. Diana's Lament was hysterical and another reason I wish I had a soundtrack.

The scenic design by Wilson Chin was intriguing and utilized all the space on stage, keeping us guessing. Though I didn't connect with every element, it was interesting to see how Director Jenn Thompson chose to incorporate them and dared to take bold risks. For example, much of the ensemble stayed on stage throughout the production, some of whom would climb up tall ladders to sit on chairs, perched high above the stage. The great costume design suspends belief and breaks the mould: While there's a nod to the book's time period clothing, Costumer Tracy Christensen livens things up with vibrant colors, Converse-style hightop sneakers, and short plaid skirts to give the youthful characters a modern and, sometimes even punkish, flair.

Philip S. Rosenberg's innovative lighting design was a highlight (pun intended) and genuinely beautiful. Rosenberg's intricate designs of string lights above the stage, through the theater, titular carnival-style sign are awe-inspiring. Rosenberg never repeated a single flourish and it added unexpected dimension and wonder.

Certain elements of the interpretation and production diverted attention away from the overall vision and impacted how it resonated with me. At our performance, the orchestra overpowered the actors whenever they were in their lower registers, obscuring the lyrics beyond recognition. O'Brien's lyrics are so impactful, creative, and interesting, so it was a shame to miss out. Choreography by Jennifer Jancuska featured stylized chair movement a la Hamilton. While it was interesting, it sometimes got in the way of the big picture.

Spoiler alert: The show hints at an unrequited romance (Anne for Diana), so when Anne later turns her attention to Gilbert, it seemed like a consolation prize. Since Gilbert had such a beautiful story arc and transformation, I would have liked something more substantial to justify that pairing.

I am wholeheartedly rooting for Anne of Green Gables as this is a work with powerful universal themes that the world needs to see. The cast is absolute perfection and I would fight anyone who dares to change it. The writing and music is more than promising and I wish I could get my hands on this exact soundtrack. Anne of Green Gables is charming, well-written, and the performances are phenomenal.

Anne of Green Gables: A New Musical

Book & Lyrics by : Matte O'Brien

Music by: Matt Vinson

Based on the novel by: L.M. Montgomery

Theatre: The Goodspeed

6 Main Street, East Haddam, Connecticut

www.goodspeed.org

Director: Jenn Thompson

Choreographer: Jennifer Jancuska

Music Supervisor: Amanda Morton

Music Director/Conductor: Matthew Smedal

Scenic Designer: Wilson Chin

Costume Designer: Tracy Christensen

Lighting Designer: Philip S. Rosenberg

Sound Designer: Jay Hilton

Hair & Wig Designer: J. Jared Janas

Orchestrator: Justin Goldner

Production Stage Manager: Bradley G. Spachman

Casting: Chad Eric Murnane/Binder Casting

Amber Snead/Binder Casting

Carrie Gradner/Binder Casting

Principals: Juliette Redden (Anne Shirley)

Michelle Veintimilla (Diana Barry)

Sharon Catherine Brown (Marilla Cuthbert)

Aurelia Williams (Rachel Lynde)

Pierre Marais (Gilbert Blythe)

D.C. Anderson (Matthew Cuthbert)

Ensemble: Emily Agy

Jarred Bedgood

Tristen Buettel

Giovanni Da Silva

Amanda Ferguson

Patrick Oliver Jones

Nick Martinez

Morgan McGhee

Jenna Lea Rosen

Avery Sobczak

Swings: Maxwell Carmel

Elaine Cotter

Veronica Fiaoni

Sam Pickart

TodayTix


From This Author - Ariana Straznicky-Packer

No stranger to the stage, Ariana Straznicky-Packer is a professional violinist whose heart belongs to Broadway. A classically-trained musician, actress, vocalist, and writer, she is full of surpris... (read more about this author)


Review: ANNE OF GREEN GABLES: A NEW MUSICAL at The GoodspeedReview: ANNE OF GREEN GABLES: A NEW MUSICAL at The Goodspeed
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Brand new musical Anne of Green Gables is at the Goodspeed now through September 4, 2022. The classic story is brought to life in a heartfelt and clever folk-rock musical with beautifully developed and charming characters. he cast is absolute perfection and I would fight anyone who dares to change it. The writing and music is more than promising and I wish I could get my hands on this exact soundtrack. Anne of Green Gables is charming, well-written, and the performances are phenomenal. Don’t miss this bold and vibrant new musical.

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