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Anne of Green Gables: Part I

Royal Family Productions tells Lucy Maud Montgomery's beloved story from a fresh, psychological point of view.

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Ali Ewoldt and dancers in a scene from “Anne of Green Gables: Part I” (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

The goal of Royal Family Productions is to take advantage of all the brilliant resources of the Times Square community including new and established talent in tandem to produce fascinating theater productions.  Their Anne of Green Gables: Part I, based on the beloved novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery as adapted by Chris Henry, has many charms, not the least of which is the luminous Ali Ewoldt in the title role of Anne Shirley. That she plays most of the other characters in this familiar tale is a bonus: more time with Ali Ewoldt.

Directed with touching simplicity by Henry and choreographed with a lyrical flow by Lorna Ventura, this Anne tells the well-known story utilizing a combination of voiceover readings, projections, dance, mime and fine acting.  Henry has turned Anne into a dance play with an original take on this oft-told tale of a spunky, intelligent and witty young lady guarded by a mute Greek chorus of four who reflect and illuminate her inner thoughts and feelings.

Cheyenne Sykes designed the sets, costumes and lighting.  The set consists of a simple platform with staircases, enhanced with flowery decorations.  Ms. Sykes has given the four dancers—Brooke Averi, Nichole Forde, Kara Menendez and Stephanie Young—diaphanous white dresses and Ms. Ewoldt a plain period outfit.

Ali Ewoldt with dancers Kara Menendez, Nichole Forde, Brooke Averi and Stephanie Young in a scene from “Anne of Green Gables: Part I” (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

The projections designed by Chelsie McPhilimy give a sense of place as well as actually telling the story and commenting upon it.  Green Gables farm is illustrated as well as various places in Prince Edward Island that are important in the text, a good deal of which is projected, too.

Amanda Armstrong, Lars Jacobsen and Bart Kuebler’s musical contributions underscore a number of mood changes as well as provide support for Ventura’s expressive choreography.

Anne has been adopted by Marilla Cuthbert and her brother Matthew who had expected a boy to help out on their farm on Prince Edward Island.  It is the turn of the twentieth century and Matthew is taken aback by the ebullient, red-haired youngster he has just picked up, a child who gleefully renames the local lake and forest to suit her fanciful flights of thought and who believes that her red hair is a detriment. It does not help her confidence when she overhears Marilla complaining about her not being a boy.  Anne does a dance of despair, supported by her little corps de ballet.

Despite setbacks, Anne does eventually win the Cuthberts over through a series of warmhearted conversations, mostly with Marilla.  Anne also befriends young Diana Barry who becomes her best buddy.

Ali Ewoldt with dancers in a scene from “Anne of Green Gables: Part I” (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

As the dance/drama proceeds Ewoldt takes on the physical attributes of one character after another fleshing out the adventures and relationships of Anne with the denizens of her new town.  She is a fine actress and gives heft even to the silliest situations as well as the sad ones, all assisted by her troupe of four dancers.

Anne of Green Gables: Part I is a treat even for those familiar with the story from the novel or previous dramatizations because it tells the story from Anne’s point of view, a psychological approach not previously tried.

The Royal Family is alternating Anne of Green Gables: Part I with Part II in which the story is told from the point of view of Marilla Cuthbert, played by the fine singer/actress Doreen Montalvo.

Anne of Green Gables: Part I (through February 11, 2019)

Royal Family Productions

The Royal Family Performing Arts Space, 145 West 46th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, visit http://www.royalfamilyproductions.org

Running time:  75 minutes without an intermission

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Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (351 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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