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Meet the stars of Anne and Gilbert

by Norah Pendergast

Peter Deiwick and Marla McLean in VictoriaJust before starting a day of rehearsal in Victoria by the Sea with the cast of Anne and Gilbert, Marla McLean reflected on her motivation. “I know that acting is my calling because I can’t imagine doing anything else. If you are in theatre and can imagine doing anything else, then, when things get tough, you will.” Marla, who will play “Anne,” was inspired to become a performer by the movie Fame. She entered professional theatre at twenty years of age, and four years later moved to Toronto after being offered a role in the Toronto Company’s production of Mama Mia.

Marla modestly credits her career to good directors and experienced actors who offered guidance and opportunities. Her talent and hard work are undoubtedly the other ingredients in her recipe of success. McLean was awarded the Robert Merrit award in the Atlantic Film Festival for her role as the lead in, Helen Keller and the Miracle Worker.

Marla was first introduced to Anne and Gilbert after working with the show’s director and choreographer, Duncan McIntosh in a Theatre New Brunswick production last Christmas. A native of Nova Scotia, Marla spent every summer of her childhood visiting family in Charlottetown. Familiarity with Anne’s story and character has allowed her to slip easily into her latest role. Marla referred to Montgomery’s books in preparation and applauds writers, Jeff Hochhauser, Nancy White, and Bob Johnstone. “The beautiful script allows Anne’s personality to come out with out losing any of the colour she had as a child….”

Marla’s boyfriend is working with her in Anne and Gilbert. He will play the role of “Roy,” Anne’s millionaire love interest. Marla is eager to guide him through her favourite sights on Prince Edward Island, specifically the Old Home Week Parade, and Rainbow Valley.

In the future Marla plans on taking time off to work in film. However, because of the excitement of performing in front of a live audience, she finds it impossible to resist the interesting theatrical opportunities.

It is certain that Anne and Gilbert lead, Peter Deiwick is well-qualified, as this summer will be the fourth time that he has played “Gilbert Blythe.” Coincidentally, the first role that this Sheridan educated actor ever played was that of Anne’s childhood rival in his grade four class production of Anne of Green Gables. Deiwick’s intelligence and charisma make him a natural choice for the well known character. It was obvious to Bob Johnstone, writer of Anne and Gilbert, and Peter’s former high school teacher. He called Peter to read at the play’s workshops in New York City.

Peter had recently completed a run as “Sky” in the Royal Alexandra Theater’s production of Mama Mia. He felt limited creatively by the exhaustive schedule and the frequency of Mama Mia productions. Disenchanted with musical theater, Peter decided to focus on writing original music for his Toronto based rock band, Chelsea’s Ghost, named for the Chelsea hotel. Inclined both instrumentally and vocally, Peter explains that he has evolved towards separating the pursuits of music and theater in his life.

Peter explains, “Work shopping Anne and Gilbert brought back a love of musical theater which had waned after my experience as one of a long list of ‘Skys’.” It was during the intense New York City workshops that the preliminary script and music, written by Johnstone, Nancy White, and Jeff Hochhauser, developed into the much anticipated romantic comedy. For Deiwick, participating in the initial creative process of a brand new play redeemed musical theater’s fault of predictability. A musician and composer himself, Peter admits that the play’s music and lyrics are some of the greatest he’s ever heard.

Though he has already played “Gilbert” in his professional career, Peter admits that he could not fully relate to the nuances of Gilbert’s character until he arrived in the Avonlea-like village of Victoria. “People here are so friendly, I met all my neighbors within four days of arriving.” Newly inspired, and armed with a stellar script, Peter Deiwick promises to provide spectators with a novel representation of Gilbert Blythe.

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