by Beatrice Walters – An Average Fifth Grader
“We must join hands, so
It ought to be over running water. We’ll just imagine this path is running water.
I’ll repeat the oath first.
‘I solemnly swear to be faithful to my bosom friend, Diana Barry, as long as the sun and moon shall endure.’
Now you say it and put my name in.”
Not as unyielding as Oliver Twist and not as cloying as Cinderella or Snow White, Anne of Green Gables: Part I, starring Ali Ewoldt as Anne, is as Ingenious and chirpy as Peter Pan flying through Neverland, but employing the devoted passionate ambition of Harry Potter. She is easily believable and eager for adventure as she struggles to find a home, family, and place to belong.
In this age of chicanery, the innocence of this story is a breath of fresh air offering a respite from the dark clouds that daily darken our landscape. Published over 110 years ago, it’s an early 20th-century picture of innocence and characters devoid of devious ulterior motives. Did a world like this really exist, or is it just the indomitable imagination of Anne’s? Or maybe it’s a picture an elder remembers looking back through rose-colored glasses, as the gauzed memory quality of the set and dancers seem to hint at?
Anne is accompanied in this telling by four wonderful dancers (Brooke Averi, Nichole Forde, Kara Menendez, and Stephanie Young) subtly mirroring her emotions while incorporating and lending fluid movement to her actions. The ever-present projections incorporated in the set design also add a mood enhancement that reflects the inner and outer quality of Anne’s being.
This could actually be called a theatrical/dance piece, but please don’t let that deter you if the description blasts warning signs in your brain. The dancers bring a magic quality to the telling of an easy story in a simple time.
On Prince Edward Island, Canada, the unmarried middle-aged siblings, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, decide to adopt a boy in his tweens to help on the farm. Mrs. Phillips of the orphanage “accidentally” sends Anne Shirley to Green Gables. When Matthew goes to the train station to retrieve the boy and finds an 11-year old girl, he cannot just leave her there and returns home with Anne. “No boy! But there must have been a boy, insisted Marilla.” Though Anne was told different, she becomes aware that she was not requested from this family. Having moments of regression, feeling disliked, rejected and shunned because she is a girl, with red hair and freckles, Anne rises herself and begins to float on the clouds of creativity and fun her imagination comes up with in the names and colors she finds in the natural world she discovers all around her.
Instead of maintaining a grudge against the Cuthberts, Anne strives to perform obediently and begs and persuades to remain at Green Gables, as the alternative of returning to the orphanage would be tantamount to emotional death.
“It’s lovely to be going home and know it’s home.”
Directed by Chris Henry; Choreography by Lorna Ventura
With: Ali Ewoldt as everybody
Dancers: Brooke Averi, Nichole Forde, Kara Menendez and Stephanie Young
Presented by Royal Family Productions, 145 West 46th Street, scheduled to run through February 11.
Running time: Approximately 75 minutes without intermission.
In conjunction with this world premiere, Royal Family Productions will also present a workshop presentation of Anne of Green Gables: Part II January 31–February 10