Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #151 - Anne of Avonlea
Hi Mom, Dad was kind enough to accompany me to the What A Do Theatre last night for the opening of Anne of Avonlea. Following, you will find the link to my published review and the text of the review itself.
Here's my thoughts on reviewing. I am not writing for The New York Times. It's not my job to pass judgement on the production or to truly rate its quality for our small town market here in and around Battle Creek. My job is to provide readers with a recap on what is in store for them if they attend but to always give readers reasons to attend.
I did not like this production very much, which had more to do with the script than anything else.
But audiences seemed to like it, and I noted this observation.
I thought my editor's headline of "Script Leaves Audiences Flat" was a little harsh, but then, I do not write those headlines.
Still, I think people should go see the live theatre, and the What a Do theatre has a strong history of excellent productions. This is just not one of its best.
Link for published review: Anne of Avonlea
"Anne of Avonlea”
a production of What A Do Theatre
Attended Date: December 04, 2015
reviewed by Christopher Tower
269-488-3590 / 269-330-2247
One year after selling out its small space multiple times with the adaptation of the children’s novel “Anne of Green Gables,” the What A Do Theatre launches part two of the popular saga with “Anne of Avonlea.”
Though audiences are still delighted with the antics of the now older Anne Shirley (Averi Beck), the dramatization of this novel by Jeanette Carlisle is not nearly as well done as the first. On opening night, the Dickman Road theater nearly filled to capacity based on the promise of the success of last year’s program. The audience honored the strong cast and artful director with plenty of laughter and warm applause, but the show itself is just not as good in any aspect as “Anne of Green Gables.”
Popularity not holiday-content prompted director Randy Wolfe to stage this sequel at the holiday season. The What A Do theatre is decorated both inside and out for the Christmas holidays. The company offers special door prizes of wrapped presents under a Christmas tree to boost the festivities. But the show itself has nothing to do with Christmas, other than its popularity with families who have often given the books to children as gifts under their own trees for the holiday.
Not to be confused with a 1987 TV mini-series or the musical “Anne and Gilbert,” this production is a straight play of the second of eight novels first published in 1909 written by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery. The books have sold millions of copies worldwide in the last hundred plus years and have been translated into 20 languages.
The play adaptation is an edited version of the second novel, eliminating key plot elements and characters. Though Anne Shirley (Beck) still begins her first term teaching at the Avonlea school, she and her adopted mother Marilla Cuthbert (Stacy Little) do not take in the twin children of their troublesome neighbor Mr. J.A. Harrison (Michael Andres), though he still makes an appearance as does his foul-mouthed parrot. Anne’s favorite pupil becomes Paulina Irving (Kailen Roop) rather than a boy named Paul, and other characters, such as Miss Lavender Lewis do not make an appearance at all.
In this sequel, Hunter King who played Moody Spurgeon last year takes on the role of Fred Wright, who asks Anne’s best friend Diana Berry, this year played by Maddy Haywood, to marry him. Christian Perez takes on the role of Anne’s love interest Gilbert Blythe, last year played by Derek Whitesell, who this year has a small role as Tommy Gillis.
The majority of the show features the activity of the young people (aided by three women played by Keely Cruz, Kelsey McGraw, and Kylie Ohrt) working as A.V.I.S. (The Avonlea Village Improvement Society) as they raise funds to make improvements to the town hall and the overall landscape of the village.
The play fragments into a vignette-type style that does not segment easily into scenes. There are wandering cows, Marilla’s ill health, romantic sub-plots, and Anne’s day dreams, but none of these elements provides working dramatic structure to the show. There are really no conflicts at all as the show unfolds in a day-in-the-life type manner. Gilbert yearns for Anne to return his love and put off plans to go to college, and a serious storm brings back a lost wife (Rachel Markillie) and ushers in the death of an unseen character, the rest of the show is series of conversations that may be more interesting to those who love the books than those who do not. The show ends rather abruptly without much of a climax as it does not build much conflict and dramatic tension in its two hour run time.
Despite the adaptation’s unremarkable script, the performers marshal serious resources and industry to show why the What A Do Theatre Company consistently offers professional, rewarding works of art to the Battle Creek community.
Following her nomination for a local Wilde award after her performance last year, Averi Beck returns for a second go at Anne Shirley. Seemingly taller and more self-possessed, she gives a fine performance, though sadly the poor script does her no favors, especially in the handling of her trademark day dreams, which here are presented as an after thought with very little explanation.
Fresh off her mind-blowing work in “August: Osage County,” Stacy Little also returns to the role of Marilla Cuthbert and does a fine job, but one wonders why she is not also joined by resident company members who made last year’s show so good, such as Dave Stubbs and Kristin Marie Stelter.
Lynda Wolfersberger Hensel fills the role of busybody Mrs. Rachel Lynde, but the script also fails to give her the kind of content that made her one of the most colorful characters in “Anne of Green Gables.”
Of the newcomers, Maddy Haywood shines brightest as Diana Berry. Kylie Ohrt has some cute business to execute as Gertie Pye. And though Christian Perez starts out a bit sluggishly, his act two work proves his acting chops in the role of Gilbert Blythe.
Once again, as last year, the set features period designs, furniture, and props with impeccable taste as arranged by Samantha Snow and Thomas Koehler. Production values are professional and seamless as always under the watchful eye of director Randy Wolfe and his family of helping hands, including Teri Noaeill, Nancy King, and Koehler.
Wolfe comments in his opening remarks that What A Do is a family and is supported by strong families, which is evident both in the loving patrons in attendance. Though the show has nothing to do with Christmas, it surely evokes warm feelings and happiness from the audience, which is what Christmas is supposed to do.
Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.
- Days ago = 153 days ago
- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1512.05 - 10:10
and again 1512.06 10:00