When conquering such a beloved classic as Anne of Green Gables one really needs to step up to the plate. In the confined, intimate church atmosphere of Aldersgate Church’s Community Theater’s troupe of fourteen actors, with half of them middle school or high school aged, filled the evening with much humor and the crazy imagination of Anne Shirley in all her glory.
When first walking in and sitting down at my seat my eyes were automatically drawn to the intricate construction of a lovely little house which took up half of the stage. The house, designed by Jessica Poole and Director Amanda Coffin, was elevated having the allusion of a downstairs, basement type level which was used as Anne’s room, along with a main kitchen room. The house also had a staircase leading up to the house with a front porch area and a set of stairs leading into the curtain to cause the allusion of more rooms. On the other half of the stage there was a large red barn which would open up to demonstrate a school house. Costume Designer Ashley Amidon’s work accurately exemplified the time era of the show taking the audience back to the early 1900s in Prince Edward Island, Canada.
There are many standout performances among the young cast. Lucy Roberts is terrific as the redheaded and freckled Anne -the charming, witty, and over-dramatic Anne that everyone has grown to love. Her overall onstage presence was commanding and her chemistry throughout the piece with many different characters was cute and believable. Joining Roberts are James Woods and Delaney Keefe who portray beloved characters Gilbert Blythe and Diana Barry. Woods began the production taunting and teasing Anne about her carrot-like red hair, and was quickly hated by the audience, but as the went on his charming boyish qualities began to shine – especially when Gilbert rescued Anne. It’s then where the jeers slowly became cheers.
Keefe’s sweet and loving portrayal of Diana showed the sweet innocence that childhood is really all about. The play itself covers many years and through the excellent performances of Keefe, Woods, and Roberts’ we watched the characters grow and develop from childish twelve year- olds to mature adults.
Young actors were not the only outstanding performers in this production, as veteran actors Barbara Hayes (Marilla Cuthbert), Teddy Gron (Matthew Cuthbert), Melanie Bales (Rachel Lynde), and Ashley Amidon (Miss Stacy) also contributed fine performances. Hayes and Gron portrayed a brother and sister who lived together and raised Anne. They had great chemistry together and kept me engaged throughout because they also displayed their sibling rivalry over who was raising Anne properly, and also shared the most touching and moving scene in the second act. which was welcome which brought, what Anne described as a painful feeling in the heart making the scene really come alive and tone down from the ongoing comedy throughout the production.
Amidon’s Miss Stacy brought hope, as she reminded the audience about the true meaning of education and purpose and the important lesson of believing in yourself, which she bestowed on Anne.
Aldersgate Church Community Theater’s Anne of Green Gables had the audience on their feet, laughing, and buzzing about the production as they left the theatre. It’s a great show for entire family to enjoy!
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
Anne of Green Gables plays through April 6, 2014 at Aldersgate Church Community Theater – 1301 Collingwood Road, in Alexandria, VA. For tickets, purchase your tickets at the door or online. one 15 minute intermission.