Anne of Green Gables
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Anne of Green Gables: The Musical

Charles Cryer Studio Theatre, Carshalton

Rating ***

The children's classic by Lucy Maud Montgomery celebrates its centenary this year and Avalon Theatre Company's production of the musical version; rarely seen outside of Canada, was as fresh a breath of trash air as Anne herself is to the sleepy-little town of Avonlea.

The spirited tomboy with red hair, freckles and a fiery temper blows into the lives of stem spinster Manila Cuthbert and her brother Matthew and takes a bit of getting used to since they had been hoping to be sent an orphan boy to help with the heavy farm work at Green Gables.

The simple plot tells of the effect this bright girl has on other people's lives, the scrapes she gets into and the academic excellence which she achieves.

It's so good to see actresses of around the right age playing juvenile characters rather than adults ageing down.

Ella Nokes was a sensationally good Anne, such a natural performer who created a real character and brought huge energy and an admirable sense of comic timing to the role. Her tantrums were impressively loud and her singing voice engagingly sweet.

All the other young people in the show gave it added zip and zest, notably Maria Shury-Smith as Anne's best friend Diana. The pair made convincing buddies.

Clare Gollop was the buttoned-up Marilla, only able to release her true feelings after the death of her brother. And Laurence Irvine was the avuncular Matthew, whose warm-heart helped Anne to blossom.

Director Sue Davids did well to keep her large cast bustling on and off the small acting area but the many fussy scene changes did slow things down. Likewise some of the actors were a bit slow picking up cues and accents were variable.

I thought the scene at the general store missed some of its comic potential and Anne shouldn't have got into bed with her boots on!

Well done to band members Kevin P Joint and Graham Jones, who kept the music going to cover all the scene changes.

Diana Eccleston