Anne & Gilbert
Review by Gillian Carr
Playing for its third year at Summerside’s Harbourfront Theatre, Anne & Gilbert is a show filled to the brim with energy and charm, guaranteed to melt even the most cynical and Anne-weary heart.
Based on L.M. Montgomery’s sequels Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island, the show follows Anne Shirley’s journey through life as a school teacher, and later on as a Redmond college girl, all the while avoiding the attentions of a certain Mr. Blythe.
Rebecca Parent and Aaron Kyte, both in their second year playing the roles of Anne and Gilbert, have a comfortable chemistry that easily demonstrates how friendship between the two blossoms into romance. With his confidence and charisma, it’s not hard to believe that Gilbert (Kyte) is the most eligible bachelor on the Island and Parent’s Anne matches him every step of the way with the same independent, stubborn, free-spiritedness familiar to those who know her story.
The songs in Anne & Gilbert are infectiously catchy, and audience members would be hard-pressed not to find themselves tapping their feet during songs like “You’re Island Through and Through” and “Seesaw Girl.” The quiet songs are filled with heart and wistfulness, showcasing the vocal talents of the cast which are highlighted in “When He Was My Beau,” “Someone Handed Me the Moon” and “All You Can Do Is Wait.” Island humour also makes appearance during “You’re Never Safe from Surprises ‘Til You’re Dead.”
Only occasionally did the acting go over the top, and the choreography seem a little forced, such as during the song “A Jonah Day,” which was supposed to be dramatic and farcical, but didn’t quite work for me.
However, one aspect of the play that I particularly enjoyed was the strong friendships shown between two generations of women—Marilla (Martha Irving) and Rachel Lynde (Robin Craig) and Anne (Rebecca Parent) and Diana (Meghan Hoople) , as demonstrated in the songs “Our Duty” and “Polishing Silver.”
The main players are surrounded by a strong supporting cast, which includes such stand-outs as Natalie Sullivan, playing the scheming Josie Pye, Meghan Hoople, playing Diana Barry and Nathan Keoughan, as Anne’s would-be beau Roy Gardner.
A new addition to this year’s production is the Young Company cast. Young local Island actors add their dance and singing skills to the Avonlea and schoolhouse scenes and their enthusiasm and hard work spill out to the audience, making them a joy to watch on stage.
The message of Anne & Gilbert isn’t subtle in any sense of the word—indeed, it even has its own theme song: “Gilbert Loves Anne of Green Gables”—but if the audience’s standing ovation at the end of the show, and my own satisfaction at seeing Anne finally get her happy ending, is any indication, it’s a genuine feel-good story. You won’t regret seeing it this summer.