Anne of Green Gables, The Musical™. Musical play, the mainstay of the Charlottetown Festival. Anne of Green Gables was based on Lucy Maud Montgomery's 1908 novel, which tells the adventures of a high-spirited, adolescent Prince Edward Island girl. The Montgomery story was originally adapted for television by Don Harron (book and lyrics), Norman Campbell (music), and Phil Nimmons (orchestration). That version was premiered 4 Mar 1956 on "CBC Folio" with Toby Tarnow as Anne Shirley and John Drainie as Matthew. A second CBC-TV production aired 18 Nov 1958 and starred Kathy Willard.
The Charlottetown Festival Production
In 1965 the Charlottetown Festival commissioned Harron and Campbell to expand the TV version into a full-length musical. Elaine Campbell (b 1925, d Charlottetown 10 Aug 2007; married to Norman Campbell) and Mavor Moore supplied additional lyrics, and John Fenwick prepared the orchestration. Anne of Green Gables was premiered 27 Jul 1965 at the Charlottetown Festival, on the mainstage of the Confederation Centre of the Arts, with Fenwick conducting.
Fenwick was the musical director and Fen Watkin was the associate musical director of the Charlottetown Festival 1965-77. Alan Lund was the production's first stage director. Both Fenwick and Watkin conducted the orchestra for the musical production of Anne of Green Gables during this period. Watkin became the musical director in 1978.
In 2011 the Charlottetown production underwent considerable changes. Harron was contracted by the Confederation Centre to write a new scene for the musical, and sets were redesigned to create a three-dimensional effect. The revamped musical was launched 28 June 2011 and ticket sales increased significantly in its debut season.
The Charlottetown Festival production of Anne of Green Gables is Canada's longest-running musical and remains a perennial favourite among tourists, especially those from Japan.
The Lead Role (Anne Shirley)
At Charlottetown the role of Anne Shirley was created by the US actress Jamie Ray, who appeared as Anne from 1965 to 1967. The role has subsequently been played by Prince Edward Island actress Gracie Finley (1968-74 and 1984-5), Malorie-Ann Spiller (1975-8), Susan Cuthbert (1979-80), Thea MacNeil (1981-3), Tracey Moore (1986), Leisa Way (1987-90 and 1993), Glynis Ranney (1991-2), Tracy Michailidis (1994-6), Samantha Winstanley (1997), Sharmaine Ryan (1996 and 1998-9), Chilina Kennedy (2000-01), Jennifer Toulmin (2002-05, 2010), Amy Wallis (2006-09) and Tess Benger (2011). Jessica Wilson appeared as Anne in the 1991 Elgin Theatre production, while Wallis played Anne in the 2009 production.
Anne of Green Gables has toured many times in Canada and occasionally abroad. Its first national tour was in 1967 when it visited all the major centres in Canada, including Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal, and Ottawa, where it was performed at the National Arts Centre. This first tour included a total of 46 performances. In 1970, Anne of Green Gables went to Ottawa again for 12 performances and to Japan for 23 performances for Expo 70. From December 1971 to January 1972, the musical was presented in New York (16 performances). Its second national tour took place in 1974 with a total of 102 performances in 34 stops. The third national tour was in 1982 with 45 performances in nine stops. In 1991, Anne of Green Gables made an eight-week tour of Japan. In 2003, the musical was presented in Ottawa at the Centrepointe Theatre, as part of the National Arts Centre's Atlantic Scene Festival (eight performances).
The first professional independent production of Anne of Green Gables was the British production, which ran nine months in 1969-70 at the New Theatre in London and was named best new musical by the London critics polled by Plays and Players magazine. The second professional independent production was at the O'Keefe Centre in Toronto in 1979 (a total of 17 performances). Other Canadian productions, independent of the Charlottetown Festival, have been staged at Toronto's Elgin Theatre in 1991 and 2009 and at Regina's Globe Theatre in 2008. The musical was also mounted at the Schubert Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut in 2005.
Recordings and Arrangements
Anne of Green Gables was recorded by the London cast (Col ELS-354) in 1969 and an LP of the Charlottetown production with Susan Cuthbert (Ready LR-045/Attic LAT-1225) was issued in 1984. Several songs were recorded by the Al Baculis Singers for Dominion (LP 1368) as part of an album of hits from Canadian musicals. The music was published by Chappell in a songbook (1969) and in vocal score (1973). G.V. Thompson published two youth arrangements by Howard Cable of songs from the musical in 1994.
A ballet based on Anne of Green Gables, with a score adapted by Norman Campbell from the musical and choreography by Jacques Lemay, was premiered 11 Oct 1989 by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet at the Manitoba Centennial Concert Hall, Winnipeg.