Guild takes on musical with Anne of Green Gables

The Chilliwack Players’ Guild production of Anne of Green Gables - The Musical runs April 24 to May 3 at the Cultural Centre.

Sarah Stewart plays the lead in Anne of Green Gables

Sarah Stewart plays the lead in Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables is always depicted as impossibly cute and spunky.

Sarah Stewart, 19, of Chilliwack, epitomizes the role of Anne.

In fact Stewart was cast in the title role even though she was battling a cold during the audition, says director Emily Hamel.

“Sarah is just amazing and really brings the character of Anne to life. I think it’s her energy and unique take on everything.

“She just killed it in the dance auditions.”

The Chilliwack Players’ Guild production of Anne of Green Gables – The Musical is April 24 to May 3 at the Cultural Centre.

They’ve been giving it all they’ve got at rehearsals in the Guild Hall.

“I really wanted the dance numbers to be stellar,” Hamel says.

This is Hamel’s first musical for the Guild as director.

“I’m having a really great time,” she says.

She’s a veteran of the musical genre having performed in a number of them since she was 12, with the Academy of Music workshops.

Hamel has also directed one-acts plays for the Guild, and a romantic comedy called Sabrina Fair most recently.

“Anne was a big hero of Sarah’s,” explains Hamel. “When she was cast, she was so excited.”

Like many kids, they both grew up loving Anne. They’re working with the musical version written by Don Harron.

Anne is the opinionated red-haired orphan whose fictional adventures begin when she is sent to help the Cuthberts, a brother and sister team on a farm in Avonlea, Prince Edward Island.

Anne Shirley has a fiery temper to go with those red braids and freckles, which she is not too crazy about by the way. But she’s also passionate, or sometimes day-dreaming and yearning for a more elegant life. It was anything rather than concentrating on those vexing farm chores.

She has been established as a Canadian literary character so well defined, she even transcends world cultures, and the stories were translated into dozens of languages.

“She’s even big in Japan.”

It doesn’t hurt that there’s been a surge in interest by some new people seeking to get involved with local theatre in Chilliwack.

The Anne of Green Gables — the Musical has been winning fans over since 1965, making it the longest running musical in Canada.

The Players’ Guild cast of group of 43 to perform and crew of 36 have been working hard behind the scenes. Together they’ve been putting all the complex elements together, with vocal coaching by Larissa Blenkarn, choreography by Pauline Dynowsky, and musical direction by Christine Millar.

Hamel read the original 1908 book by Lucy Maud Montgomery when she was younger, but also saw the mini series later aired on TV by Sullivan Entertainment.

“I think Anne has become so iconic because she’s so honest and speaks her mind. She has no fear of showing people who she is, even if that sometimes backfires on her.”

The director knows a thing or two about the redhead’s fictional chronicles. Hamel played the role of Anne’s friend, Diana Barry, in a production of the musical some years back, while Guild choreographer Dynowsky played Anne, so there’s a strong familiarity with the material.

They’ve been running through their paces every Saturday with the chorus to get the musical numbers up to par.

“Slowly we’ve been adding the vocal work and the blocking, and it’s really paid off.

“I hardly have to direct any of them,” she says happily.

• Anne of Green Gables – The Musical, 7:30 p.m., April 24 to May 3, in the Hub International Theatre of the Cultural Centre. Tickets $30/$25, and family discount night on April 30 when all tickets are $18. Matinees on April 27 and May 3, at 2 p.m. 604-391-SHOW (7469)