A Bragg Creek-based theatre company is excited to roll back the curtain on its first mainstage production since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic – a musical adaptation of a classic Canadian tale.
A 22-person ensemble and an all-female production team are preparing to take the stage from May 12 to 15 for Anne of Green Gables – The Musical.
The production tells the story of a red-haired orphan named Anne Shirley who lives on Prince Edward Island. After she is adopted by an elderly brother and sister, she embarks on a new life at a farm called Green Gables. Curious about her new environment, she brings excitement into the lives of those around her.
Melanie Baux, artistic director, said with opening night less than two weeks away, the group has been busy rehearsing and is a “force to be reckoned with.”
“There’s people from all over the Rocky View area that are coming to be part of the show, so that’s pretty amazing,” she said.
“This is our biggest production of the year.”
Cast members hail from Calgary, Cochrane, Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows.
Baux said the theatre company put on a smaller production last fall called Nunsense, which featured five cast members. Swamp Donkey Musical Theatre has offered several youth productions since the pandemic began, but has not been able to host a mainstage production, which is usually slated for springtime.
“The difference with the mainstage production is that it combines all ages, whereas our production in the fall is usually just adults,” she explained.
She added the company takes immense pride in giving younger and less experienced actors an opportunity to work alongside actors who are established in their careers who can serve as mentors, and the mainstage production provides an opportunity to do just that.
“This [production] combines everyone and that’s in keeping with our mandate of education,” she said. “We have all ages from children to adults playing roles.”
In addition to her role assisting with the music and choreography of the show, Baux said she is also set to play Cuthbert, a resident of Green Gables who is the guardian of the play’s main character.
Baux said Cuthbert is a stern maternal figure in Anne’s life, and finding the right balance in her performance has been a challenge.
“She’s a bit of a tough cookie,” Baux said. “You don’t want to make her mean, but she’s not too soft either.”
According to Baux the production will be a traditional take on the classic children’s story, but with a musical twist.
“The musical is a little bit different than the books, the movies, and plays because there’s a substantial amount of music used to progress the story,” she said. “So, in that way it’s a little bit different than just seeing the play.”
She added a couple of the songs featured in the production are recognizable and will help to engage the audience with the traditional family show.
Despite some people’s misgivings about musicals, she advised spectators to “take a chance” on the production.
“Lots of people say they don’t like musicals, but I think musicals take a story and bring it to life in a different way with the music,” she said. “Music, as we all know, brings back memories or emotions. As the story goes along in a musical, those emotions are presented through the songs.
“I think it’s really cool to be taken on a journey through this story. It's a classic – it's one of those musicals that everyone such say ‘I’ve seen that.’”
In the months leading up to the show, Swamp Donkey founder Trisha Gizen has been busily preparing costumes, props, and assisting with the direction of the production.
Similarly, Swamp Donkey Musical Theatre Society board members Mackenzie Walsh and Meaghan Schulz are lending a hand with stage management and choreography, respectively. Wrapping up the all-female production team is Jennifer Lightfoot, set designer.
Baux added her husband and the society’s treasurer, Gordon Baux, is acting as sound and light technician for the production.
To purchase tickets for the show, visit showpass.com