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Silverdale theater opens West Coast premiere of Anne and Gilbert
“Anne and Gilbert,” a musical adaptation of the famed Anne of Green Gables book series, will run for the first time on the West Coast at The Central Stage Theatre of County Kitsap in Silverdale Feb. 10 through March 4.
The show debuted in Prince Edward Island, Canada in 2005 where the plot takes place. It moved onto stages in Ontario and throughout Canada to critical and popular acclaim.
CSTOCK director Gwen Adams said that she wanted the Silverdale performance to be the U.S. premiere, but was beaten out by a playhouse in Chicago who got rights this past summer.
“We just missed it,” Adams said. She added that the cast is still “honored” to bring the iconic story to the West Coast for the first time.
“I was raised on Anne of Green Gables,” said Katie Beddoe, actress playing the title role of Anne Shirley. “It’s a lot of pressure to play such an iconic part that means so much to so many little girls.”
Beddoe dyed her hair “carrot” red for the part. She also encouraged her boyfriend, Ty Brillhart, to audition for the part of her love interest, Gilbert Blythe. The real-life couple said that playing the love scenes is easy because they know each other but difficult because they want to capture something more than themselves.
“It’s a much bigger show than you would think. The music is charming and quaint, so it doesn’t seem that way, but it’s a real production,” Beddoe said.
The show features a cotillion scene with a full-cast waltz and several “Irish jig numbers.” Adams explained that Prince Edward Island, where the story takes place, has a strong Irish background and is known for its fiddlers.
A typical musical has about 20 songs, said Michelle Abad, the show’s vocal coach. But “Anne and Gilbert,” with music written by Canadians Bob Johnston and Nancy White, has 31 songs and “tons and tons” of orchestral scores.
However, Abad explained that the music brings a new dimension to the classic story of the orphan girl who is accidentally sent to the wrong family but grows up to gain the love of the whole town.
“What dialogue or text can’t convey, this music does,” Abad said. “In Anne’s emotional scenes the violins have a lovely arcing melody.”
The live orchestra for the production includes a pianist, a guitarist and two violinists – Tinekah Dahl and Julie Ross – from the Bremerton Symphony Orchestra.
Adams said that the recent snow storm put a strain on CSTOCK’s rehearsal schedule by shutting down production for four days.
The first Saturday after the storm, the whole cast of 19 actors gathered to help paint and nail sets as well as memorize their dialogue, music and dance steps. Adams said that there are usually “100 different things” going on at once on and behind the stage as they enter “hell week,” the week before opening night.
Rehearsals have been from 6:30 to 10 p.m. every night, but lately they have been running even longer. Adams said it has been difficult to “keep everyone healthy” with finals week in schools, the weather and other stressors.
“Even with that, most nights I can’t get them to go home,” Adams said.
A large part of the cast missed rehearsals last week due to illness and the director came up with a “Shakespearean solution” by assigning the boys to play the girls roles. Adams said the young men were “good sports” and even taught the girls a thing or two about being “seductive” for one of the scenes.
Kitsap County has many things in common with Prince Edward, said Adams which she believes will make the story resonate with local audiences whether or not they have read the books. The transient military community, cold, gray skies, scenic views and proud small-town mentality are elements that she cited.
In addition to the regular performances, CSTOCK will run one special performance of Anne and Gilbert for the deaf community Feb. 19. Two American Sign Language interpreters will translate the lyrics and songs in front of the stage. One interpreter will play the role of Anne and the other will take on all the other roles. Adams said that deaf patrons often attend CSTOCK performances because they can feel the vibration and rhythm of the music and see the lyrics.
“The lyrics and the music, just like the words in the original books are beautiful in any language,” Adams said.