A precocious and spunky orphan with red hair, a wild imagination, and a name that begins with "A"? No, our protagonist is not that girl with a hard-knock-life, but a girl named Anne who lives at Green Gables. Anne finds love, friendship, and most importantly, family in Oakcrest School's production of “Anne of Green Gables: The Musical.”
Anne of Green Gables is based on the beloved 1908 novel of the same name and premiered at Canada's Charlottetown Festival, where it has been performed annually since 1965. It is the world's longest running annual musical production, a testament to its enduring popularity.
A young girl named Anne excitedly searches for her new adoptive father at a train station, but her new father Matthew is not searching for her. Matthew is under impression that his new child is going to be a boy and when he is presented with Anne due to a mix up at the orphanage, he confusedly takes her home and introduces her to his sister Marilla who is none too pleased. Marilla and Matthew, a brother and sister pair who together adopt Anne, contemplate giving Anne up but ultimately decide to keep her. Anne's wild imagination and melodramatic nature cause tension with a stoic Marilla, but endear her to a warm Matthew. She takes her antics with her to school and faces the ire of her classmates and teacher, except for a girl named Diana who quickly becomes her best friend. A boy named Gilbert teases her, but only because he wants to be her "beau." As the years go on, Anne flourishes in her new environment and begins to call Green Gables home.
Oakcrest, an all-girls school, faced the challenge of portraying believable characters and creating believable relationships, and they did so commendably. The production benefited from strong vocal performances all around, with impressive soloists and incredibly well blended harmonies to boot.
Clare Kolasch gave a tour de force performance of a tour de force character. Kolasch's humorous, heartwarming, and at times hilariously histrionic portrayal of Anne was a pleasure to watch from curtain until bows. Her coming of age from an excitable and quirky little girl to a confident, but still quirky young woman did justice to the beloved character. Her beautiful soprano was to be applauded, but her stand out vocal moment happened in the form of a hysterical five minute facetiously apologetic ballad named "Oh Mrs. Lynde!"
Jill Collins was charming as Anne's one-time prospective beau, later her rival, and finally her friend. She shone in the longingly romantic "Wondrin," the dueling "I'll Show Him," and the conciliatory "Wondrin" (reprise). Kiley Hatch was adorable as Anne's best friend Diana Barry. From explaining to Anne the wonders of ice cream to imagining their future as "Kindred Spirits," she developed a believably loving relationship with Anne.
The set made an effective use of limited stage space and was a beautiful representation of an Avonlea farming community in the early 20th-century. Set transitions were seamless, although there were problems with the volume and cutting in and out of mics.
At the beginning of Oakcrest High School's wistful production of “Anne of Green Gables,” Matthew and Marilla grumbled upon receiving Anne that they had "Clearly Requested a Boy." By the end of the evening, an emotional Matthew sang this of the little red-headed girl who had become a not-so-little red-headed woman: "Anne of Green Gables, never change, I like you just this way."