Anne of Green Gables Live In Studio

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For the performers of Wheelock Family Theatre, performing live in the WERS studio is kind of a departure from what they’re used to.

“It’s ‘different,’ let’s say that,” said Charles Baldwin, the director of marketing for Wheelock Family Theatre, rising chuckles from the cast members joining him in the WERS studio.

When you’re used to performing in front of live audiences in theatrical productions, giving a strong performance in the modest WERS studio for a listening-exclusive audience may seem challenging. It was this challenge that the Wheelock Family Theatre Group had and then effortlessly surpassed when they stopped by the WERS studio with the cast of their new production, Anne of Green Gables. Performing during Standing Room Only – WERS’s only program dedicated exclusively to Broadway and show tunes – the cast were in good musical company upon their visit to WERS.

Anne of Green Gables – originally a novel written by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery in 1908 – has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and has served as the source material for various film, television, and theatre adaptations around the globe. Despite the potential influences of the various other adaptations, Baldwin and the cast agreed that their version is creative, yet very true to the original story in the way it approaches the morals of the story.

Indeed, the sampling of songs that the cast brought to perform in the WERS studio each contained important lessons that audiences, both young and old, could take away. The first song, “Humble Pie”, was a catchy jingle sung by the character Matthew to the lead character Anne about the importance of being humble. In the song, the message is quite clear, as Matthew tells Anne the actual steps she can take to be a humble and modest person. Any preconceived notions that the cast would have trouble bringing the energy of a live theatre production into the studio were quickly blown to bits as both performers delivered their vocals with power and excitement over the sounds of the piano.

The transformation of the WERS studio into an improvised theatre continued with the second song from the Wheelock Family Theatre performers, “Kindred Spirits”. Praising the virtues of companionship, “Kindred Spirits” features the characters Anne and Diana singing about how they value their each other and their friendship. It is a sweet song that touches real emotional ground and resonates with anyone who has ever had a close friend.

The final song, which happens to share the title of the play, “Anne of Green Gables”, is an even more tender and emotional song than “Spirits”. In the closing ballad, a somber Matthew professes his admiration for Anne’s individuality and her willingness to be her true quirky self, regardless of what other people think. The vocalist accompanied only by the pianist gave a stirring performance, leading one to imagine how moving the song must be when performed at the end of the entire theatrical production.

The messages of humility, friendship, and individuality in these songs are undoubtedly relevant and relatable to audiences of all ages. While these individual lessons are important on their own, Baldwin ensures that they are all just components of the larger theme of the play.

“The question is how can young people, like Anne, [manage to] maintain integrity despite isolation?” said Baldwin. “Anne uses her imagination to soften the edges of her challenges while also learning to trust in reality and real people. That is the reason why the story is a classic and why it still resonates today.”

With thoughtful mentality like that combined with the talent and know-how to create high level performance energy, Wheelock Family Theatre’s rendition of Anne of Green Gables will no doubt be an entertaining and insightful experience for audiences of all ages.

Anne of Green Gables is now playing weekends through November 18 at the Wheelock Family Theatre in Boston.

By Chris Gillespie
Photo by Lauren Moquin

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