By Bob Evans
Everyone likes a good, family-oriented story as evidenced by Shirley Temple movies, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (and it’s several film versions), Old Yeller, and so many more novels adapted into film, so the success of a novel about an orphan in Canada fits well into that genre of books, making Anne of Green Gables a strong story that adapts well to film and to create a live action play.
Olathe Civic Theatre Association presents the classic story with a bulging cast, filled with young talent, guaranteed to develop into locally know actors as they pursue the footlights. “Anne of Green Gables” tells the story of an overly-talkative orphan girl who wins the heart of the brother and sister, Matthew and Marilla who adopt her to help around the family farm. The problem, known from the first three minutes: they “ordered” a boy to help Matthew, but the orphanage sent a girl–a red-headed, freckled-faced girl who talks non-stop and whose dramatic outbursts and vivid imagination lead her into well-intentioned mischief and slight rebellion.
For OCTA’s production, Heather Tinker the cast with local talent, mostly girls, and presents a heart-warming tale of growing up, filled with the successes and mis-steps along the way. The audience buys in with this apt adaptation from the beginning lines as Anne arrives at the train station to meet Matthew on her way to Green Gables. By the time she arrives, she’s won his heart, and she soon faces Marilla who insists that she ordered a boy and contemplates sending Anne back to the orphanage.
The charm of the story comes from a strong performance by Tessa Luechtefeld as Anne. The charm comes from Marilla as played by Sally Schmucker, the stern, but loving co-owner of Green Gables. The balance of the story comes from Don Leonard’s Matthew who always makes everything seem better. And, the villainess of the story stomps about via Rachel Lynde, as portrayed with flair by Karla Fennick.
Others in the cast have some good scenes, but the four leads really carry the story and provide the laughs and heart-break. Good blocking and directing by helps the audience keep focus on the main story as it unfolds. The set design also stands out as it uses the space to full advantage for three different scenes. Sound, which usually presents a challenge to the OCTA productions is crisp and clear for this production. Kudos to the sound crew. Lighting also helps in this show as it allows the audience to adjust to different times and scenes.
OCTA soars with this production. Opening night sold out. Sunday matinee, usually a smaller crowd only had a handful of unfilled seats. As word spreads, all remaining performances could sell out. The play rings true for story, acting, technical aspects. This is a stellar production for OCTA.
“Anne of Green Gables” comes with the highest recommendations. The show excel as family-oriented entertainment. Young and old will enjoy the story, and it might encourage reading of the Lucy Maud Montgomery novels that continue the story. Anne of Green Gables is the first of stories.
“Anne of Green Gables” cast in order of appearance: Anne Shirley, Tessa Luechtefeld; Station Master/Mr. Phillips/Jerry Buote/Rev. Allan/Mr. Sadler/President of Queen’s Academy, Sam Schaper; Matthew Cuthbert, Don Leonard; Marilla Cuthbert, Sally Schmucker; Rachel Lynde, Karla Fennick; Mrs. Blewett/Aunt Josephine, Jennifer Ward; Rev. Bentley/Moody MacPherson, Ryan Foster; Prissy Andrews, Maddie Huwe (Josie Understudy); Miss Rogerson/Mrs. Allan, Casandra Clark; Diana Barry, Julia Masterson School Girl/Mary Jo, Elise Bowles (Diana Understudy); School Girls, Sarah Marvin, Melayna Murphy, Marra Luechtefeld; Mrs. Barry, Misti Robison; Minnie May Barry, Kendal Montgomery; Josie Pye, Rachel Montemayor (Anne Understudy); Ruby Gillis, Alexa Edmonds; Charlie Sloane, Collin Montgomery; Jimmy Glover, Lincoln Holmes; Tillie Boulter, Madelyn Baxter; Jane Andrews, Addison Landes; Carrie Sloane, Elliana Moore; Bessie Wright, Megan King; Gilbert Blythe, Dentan Adams; Miss Susan Stacy, Hailey Burgess.
Production staff for “Anne of Green Gables”: Director, Heather Tinker; Stage Manager, Emily Martin; Set Designer, Steve Libick; Costume Designer, Alexandra Bonar; Costume Crew, Blake Holden; Lights/Sound Designer, Dave Cox;
Props, Lynsie Petersen; Set Construction, Lindsay Boehmer, Alex Wilkerson; Dramaturg, Quinn North.
“Anne of Green Gables” continues at OCTA on weekends through Nov. 19. Tickets need to be purchased in advance to avoid shut outs at box office. Tickets may be purchased by phone at 913.782.2990 or via the Olathe Civic Theatre Association website.
Tags: “Anne of Green Gables”, Olathe Civic Theatre Association, OCTA, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Olathe