Wednesday, October 31, 2012

QUICK TAKE REVIEW Exuberant Musical at Wheelock By Beverly Creasey

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES is the kind of delightful entertainment the Wheelock Family Theatre does best. The Campbell/Harron musical based on the L.M. Montgomery novel is kid friendly and adult deep. ANNE OF GREEN GABLES (playing through November 18th) is the loving story of a little orphan girl from Prince Edward Island who does not lack reserve. Anne (with an “e”) always speaks her mind, much to the chagrin of the elderly brother and sister who wanted a boy to help with the farm but quickly fell in love with the spunky whirlwind.

Lucy Maud Montgomery created a world where wrongs are soon righted and misunderstandings soon straightened out…and sometimes adults are as naughty as children. Audiences will respond to the lively songs and spirited antics of the young actors onstage and no one, no one could resist Jennifer Beth Glick as Anne. Glick lights up the musical with her unstoppable exuberance. Glick and Robert Saoud, as the elderly farmer who adopts Anne, create a transcendent father-daughter relationship, making the musical far more than “a children’s story.” I found tears in my eyes, remembering my father, whenever he rescued her or comforted her or did something special for her.

Director Jane Staab’s remarkable cast features Jacqui Parker as Saoud’s stern sister, not as easily won over by Anne. Parker somehow manages to show us the woman’s inward journey, slowly growing with affection for the little girl. Plenty of comic turns grace the musical, from Maureen Keiller’s ever present busybody to Susan Bigger’s absentminded adoption agent to Gamalia Pharms’ eager gossip. Music director Robert L. Rucinski gets fine singing from the ensemble and lovely numbers like “Ice Cream” and “Kindred Spirits” for Glick and Jenna Lea Scott as Anne’s true friend. See what Wheelock can do better than anyone: To present theater which reflects all of us onstage with stories than touch everyone.