Young girls in Orange County will love The Chance Theatre’s production of Anne 
of Green Gables: The Musical.  Based on the first and most famous of Lucy Maud 
Montgomery’s eight Anne Shirley books, this adaptation by Joseph Robinette and 
Evelyn D. Swenson adds songs to what has already been a 1919 silent movie, a 
1934 Hollywood film (starring interestingly enough Anne Shirley), a 1956 TV 
production, a British mini-series in 1972, a four-hour TV movie in 1985 which 
spawned two sequels, and even a Japanese anime series. (And who knows how 
many other versions are out there?)

For those like myself not acquainted with Miss Shirley’s story, the titular Anne was a 
rather chatty orphan who was sent to live with “an old maid and an old bachelor”
—by mistake. (The old maid wanted a boy to help with farm work.) Anne had a 
When Harry Met Sally friendship with Gilbert Blythe (who became her husband, 
though not in the first book), a friendship with a properly brought up “good girl” 
named Diana Barry (which was temporarily interrupted by Diana’s parents’ 
objections to Anne’s “bad girl” behavior), and (eventually) a loving relationship 
with her adoptive parents (unmarried siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert).

Men and boys be warned: Anne of Green Gables—The Musical does not try very 
hard to appeal to audiences outside its demographic. Adults will not find the kind 
of “sails over the heads of children” humor that makes Disney and Pixar animated 
films so popular with all ages.  And boys would most likely prefer Treasure Island: The 
Musical, if such a thing existed.  But young girls will eat up this show, and so I’m sure 
will mothers and grandmothers who grew up reading the Anne Shirley books.

The Chance, as might be expected, has assembled an excellent cast. 

Jessie McLean is winning as spunky Anne. With her non-stop chattering about her 
unfortunate red hair and dull name (“Call me Cordelia, or at least spell my name 
with an -e.”), it’s easy to see why Anne alienates certain residents of Avonlea…at 
first. But in McLean’s capable hands, Anne wins over even the grouchiest hearts. 
Dianne Manaster is properly spinsterish yet warm-hearted as Marilla and Lewis R. 
Crouse II, with his mountain-man mane of gray hair, looks like he could have 
stepped out of one of the illustrations of the book’s first edition (assuming it had 
illustrations).  Ana Maria Campoy is as sweet as berry pie as Diana, and the scene 
where Anne and Diana “talk elegant” and a later one where Diana gets sloshed 
on cherry cordials are amusing indeed. Andrew Eddins is a handsome and 
ingratiating Gilbert, lending his pleasant singing voice to the title song.  Tanya 
Raisa Mironowski gets to shine in two roles, as busybody Rachel Lynde, and as 
Diana’s grouchy (before Anne wins her over) Aunt Josephine.  Neena Tilton has 
even more fun playing four roles.  She’s especially funny as Anne’s spinster 
schoolteacher and a hoot as the town pastor’s nasal voiced wife. Chance regular 
Jeff Hellebrand does well in four roles, and musical director Bill Strongin (who 
provides the excellent piano accompaniment for the show’s dozen and a half 
songs) plays three parts, the most memorable of which is the very very French 
Professor Engerrand. I found Strongin’s French accent (which seems to have 
several more nasal vowels than the actual French language) to be the funniest 
thing in the entire production. (I love over the top foreign accents). Andrea de la 
Luz Ainsworth, Shannon Cudd, Peter Schnake, and Damon Hayes are very good as 
Anne’s classmates, and little Sarah Pierce as Minnie May, Diana’s initially bratty 
baby sister, scores twice—first, chewing the scenery as Minnie May imitates Anne’s 
way of overreacting to everything, and later, dramatically, as feverish Minnie May 
struggles for her life.  (Don’t worry, girls. She doesn’t die.)

Chance members Casey Long (in his mainstage directorial debut) and Kelly Todd 
(who also choreographed*) have done fine work directing Anne of Green Gables: 
The Musical. They clearly understand and have an affection for the material.  
Katherine Futterer’s set design is simple but effective. On either side of the stage 
are two sets books, open to pages from the novel, and the rear projections (by 
Masako Tobaru and Long) introduce and end each act with Lucy Maud 
Montgomery’s printed words, and provide quick scene changes to whatever 
location is being projected behind the players.  The stage is illuminated by Tobaru’s 
warm lighting design.  Erika C. Miller (best known onstage as Cabaret’s Sally 
Bowles and Into the Woods’ Cinderella, among other roles) proves herself an 
expert costumer with her sumptuous designs.
*Todd’s choreography for “The Charlestown Rag” is charming.

Still, for all the deserved praise I have heaped on the cast and crew, I must confess 
that Anne of Green Gables: The Musical did not captivate me as did such 
Chance triumphs as Into The Woods, Cabaret, and  Sunday in the Park with 
George.  I would guess that those outside the show’s target audience may well 
find it to be a bit of a yawn. But hey, the young girls who will eat up this 
production wouldn’t have been able to sit through even half an hour of the edgy, 
adult entertainment that makes the Chance a must-attend theater for me.

Lovers of Little Women, Little House on the Prairie, Pollyanna, and of course the 
Anne Shirley books (that is to say the half of the human race who are sugar and 
spice and everything nice), will adore the Chance’s Anne of Green Gables: The 
Musical. For girls of all ages, this is first-rate holiday entertainment.

The Chance Theater, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim.

–Steven Stanley
November 25, 2007
Photos: Doug Catiller

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