By Janie Walenda
L.M. Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” is an iconic children’s story that has been adapted for stage and film countless times. Cedarville University’s production, using a script adapted by Peter Delaurier, expertly weaves this classic tale of friendship, family, and forgiveness.
The plot of “Anne of Green Gables” is fairly straightforward. An orphan girl named Anne, brought by mistake to Prince Edward Island in Canada, is adopted by siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. While Anne’s imagination and spirited tongue often get her into trouble, as time goes on, she matures and grows in her relationships with Matthew and Marilla and her friends at school.
One of this production’s greatest strengths lies in its casting. These twelve actors deftly bring their characters to life and expertly play off of each other. It is so enjoyable to watch the relationships between the characters grow, as both the joyful and dramatic moments hit home. The comedic timing is excellent, and I enjoyed watching the subtler comedic moments. There are several scenes throughout the show when Anne is alone in her room or Matthew, Marilla and Mrs. Lynde are hearing a story around the kitchen table; these moments are not the central focus of the scene but add so much to the humor of the show.
Hannah Bradley portrays the titular Anne with the right combination of earnestness and eccentricity.
Anne is not an easy character to play, but Hannah Bradley does an excellent job. She delivers each of Anne’s musings with the right combination of earnestness and eccentricity. She makes the transition from a flighty young girl to a caring young adult gracefully. When I asked Bradley what characteristic of Anne was the most important for her to depict, she said that she “wants to bring out her capacity to love despite not being loved her whole life.” Seeing Anne grow and thrive is incredibly rewarding to the audience and makes for a satisfying ending to the story.
In equally compelling performances, Ava Ramsey’s Marilla Cuthbert and Sam Acosta’s Matthew Cuthbert round out the main trio of characters, bringing a lot of heart and humor to these two leads. When I spoke to them, they both emphasized the difference that Anne makes in the Cuthberts’ lives. Ramsey said that Marilla’s journey is “figuring out how to show [that] what is inside of her is much different than what she shows people…it’s about her learning to love.” Likewise, Acosta explained how Matthew is “just going through the motions until Anne comes into his life” and emphasized “how much he takes on the father figure [to Anne]” as the story progresses.
Ava Ramsey and Sam Acosta portray siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, respectively, whose spontaneous adoption of Anne kicks off the story.
Farrah Rawlings’ Rachel Lynde deserves an additional shout-out just for how absurdly funny she is. Her mannerism and comedic timing are outstanding, and she was the highlight of every scene she was in.
The supporting cast, mostly made up of Anne’s circle of friends, brings a lot of fun and youth into the show. They all must make the transition from childhood to young adulthood, which they do well. Lily VanBrocklin and Max Thompson play Diana Barry and Gilbert Blythe, respectively. Both actors work well with Bradley’s Anne, and both characters make important contributions towards Anne’s growth.
The rest of the cast includes Cassie Cunningham as Mrs. Barry, Paul Miller as Moody McPherson, Teghan Reed as Ruby Gillis, Anna Varney as Jane Andrews, Lynsey Stratton as Josie Pye and Lauren Merrifeld as both Mrs. Spencer and Miss Stacy. Varney described the show as surprisingly wholesome, which can be attributed to the work of this ensemble and the relationships they build between their characters.
The cast and crew work to craft a heartfelt and emotional story about friendship, family, and forgiveness.
As the director, Professor Stacey Stratton leads the cast and crew towards creating this heartfelt and emotional story. “[It’s about] themes like friendship and family and forgiveness,” she said, “[and] the beautiful things that happen when your expectations are not met and you rise to the occasion.”
Certainly, some of the production’s expectations were not met, as the COVID spike significantly affected “Anne of Green Gables” production. When Alford Auditorium, the production’s rehearsal space, was converted into an isolation ward, rehearsals were moved into the event rooms at the SSC. The transition from rehearsal space to the theatre is always tricky, and so an additional transition was an unwelcome development.
Additionally, COVID requires an intense understudy system. Understudies dedicate hours of their time, oftentimes without ever performing. The understudies for “Anne of Green Gables” are Josiah Kareck, Haven Sidell, Jared Bowden, and Riley Laine Howell. Additionally, Cassie Cunningham, Farrah Rawlings, Teghan Reed, and Lauren Merrifield understudy a role in addition to their roles in the show.
I would love to go on and list every person who works in the artistic and production staff, as every aspect of this play shows the work and care that went into it. That said, I would like to highlight Haven Sidell’s original music and Rebekah Priebe’s costume, hair, and makeup design.
“Anne of Green Gables” was one of the most influential books of my childhood, so I was thrilled to learn that the Cedarville theater program would be producing it this year. The cast and crew captured all of the joy of the novel and brought out the themes of family and forgiveness. Despite all the times I’ve read the book, I had never picked up on how prominent the theme of forgiveness was. With the added richness of that theme, Cedarville’s “Anne of Green Gables” deepens the familiar story to create a wonderful and moving piece.
“Anne of Green Gables” has upcoming performances from October 7 thru October 10; tickets are available to purchase online or at the SSC Info Desk.
Janie Walenda is a freshman Global Business major and an A&E writer for Cedars. She enjoys musicals, movies and rereading the same books ten times.