Amy Reitsma and Jory Rossiter play title roles
by Amanda Blakeney
Anne & Gilbert, will run this year from June 15th through until September 26th at the Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside, and audiences will be able to experience the talents of new leads—Amy Reitsma and Jory Rossiter.
The story focuses on the sometimes-complicated relationship between Anne Shirley and childhood sweetheart Gilbert Blythe as they enter adulthood, with Anne commencing her career as a school-teacher. Centering on the realities of their new-found relationship, the play may surprise audiences.
“It’s very important to know that the relationship isn’t clear-cut—it’s very three-dimensional, and Anne and Gilbert may not choose one another in the end,” Rossiter says. Reitsma continues, adding, “The story is a love story, but it’s a complicated love story about a realistic romantic relationship. It’s the story of two people’s lives, and how they fit into one another’s lives. There’s not necessarily a happy ending.”
The production is under new—but familiar—direction this season, as Martha Irving, who played Marilla Cuthbert in the production in 2008 and 2009, lends her talents. “It’s very exciting to be working with Martha,” says Reitsma. “She brings a fresh perspective as a director, and really wants to present honest, true stories.” Audiences are likely to draw parallels between themselves and the characters, who Irving ensures stand the test of time. “The production is the exact opposite of a cookie-cutter production,” says Rossiter, which forces both actors to immerse themselves in the realities of their equally-spirited characters. “Martha really wants to find the heart of the show and of the characters, regardless of how small a role they play.”
This search for the respective hearts of Anne and Gilbert proved to be rewarding for leads Amy Reitsma and Jory Rossiter. Undergoing intensive rehearsals for the role, Reitsma points to the challenges of fairly portraying such an intelligent and liberated character, combined with the complexities of fast-paced musical theatre. She says, “This is a very different role for me. I usually act in straight theatre, but being the lead in a musical production is a new experience. There’s no time to drop the ball, here, and you’re always kept on your toes.” Returning to the stage as Gilbert is vindication of sorts for Rossiter, who suffered an injury while cast as Gilbert in Anne of Green Gables—The Musical™ in 2004. “I feel like there’s some unfinished business there. I think there are many similarities between me and Gilbert—and I feel as though I’ve grown up alongside him, in a way,” he says.
Anne & Gilbert runs June 15th to September 26th—three shows a week—Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday (matinée). The show is produced by Maurice Gallant.