‘Anne of Green Gables’ Now Playing at The Village Theatre

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Kasey Nusbickel (Anne Shirley), Dennis Bateman (Matthew Cuthbert).  Photo by Jay Koh.  Property of Village Theatre.
Kasey Nusbickel (Anne Shirley), Dennis Bateman (Matthew Cuthbert). Photo by Jay Koh. Property of Village Theatre.

Just in time for the holiday season, Anne of Green Gables, a new musical, is now playing at The Village Theatre in Issaquah, Washington.  Whether you have relatives visiting and want to give them a treat, or you’re just looking for something to take your children to now that we’ve entered into the rainy season here in Seattle, check out this Village Theatre offering.  It is entertaining, uplifting and appropriate for all ages.

Based on the classic children’s novel by L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables follows the journey of Anne Shirley, an orphan with bright red hair and an incredible imagination.  Anne’s dramatic personality and talkative nature cause several humorous social mishaps, but her honest charm and enthusiasm win over the Avonlea community.

Anne of Green Gables was written by the musical team of Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman.  It is a perfect example of the unique work done by The Village Theatre, which is dedicated to developing new musicals.  I first saw the work at a reading during the 2009 Festival of New Musicals, and while it was not ready for the big time yet, it was by far the best show presented that summer.  Over the course of the year, the directors and the authors worked together to develop the show.  I was invited to attend opening night last week, and the show has grown significantly.  While it is probably not Broadway bound in its current incarnation, it is very delightful and will surely please any theatergoer.

If it has one major fault, it would be that some could call it too traditional to the point of being conservative.  On the other hand, it is this traditional nature that makes it appropriate for all ages, particularly for younger audiences who may not be ready for edgier newer musicals such as Spring Awakening.  Also, some of the songs are a bit muddy when two actors are singing together, as in ‘What a Fix,’ but overall the songs were pretty good.

So why should you see Anne of Green Gables?  Two things stand out from the night I attended, and they are Kasey Nusbickel as Anne Shirley and the choreography.  Nusbickel was a tour de force in her portrayal of the voluble Anne.  She was the absolute pitch-perfect Anne Shirley.  She brought so much depth and warmth to Anne that the audience could not help but love the redheaded orphan.  Nusbickel gave one of the best theater performances I have seen in recent years.

The choreography by Steve Tomkins and Kristin Culp was reminiscent of a light version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and other traditional musicals.  What particularly struck me was how the choreography actually helped tell the story, from the large group numbers down to the incredibly intimate and moving dance between Anne’s parents.

Anne of Green Gables plays at the Village Theatre in Issaquah through January 2, 2011, and then it moves to Everett where it will run from January 7-30, 2011.

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