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Based on the 1908 novel by L.M. Montgomery
Adapted by Tabitha Ibarra (World Premiere)

Plaza Theatre Company

Directed by Tabitha Ibarra
Stage Management-Madison Heaps
Costume Design-Tina Barrus
Props-Soni Barrus
Light Design-Cameron Barrus
Original Music-Parker Barrus
Video Projection-Cameron Barrus
Set Design-JaceSon P. Barrus
Costume Design- Hope Andersen, Sarah Andersen, Soni Barrus
Set Construction-JaceSon P. Barrus, Jodie Barrus
Scenic Painting-Sam Tarron,JaceSon P. Barrus

Anne- Julia Wood
Marilla-Katy Wood
Teen Anne-Eden Barrus
Young Anne-Mimi Barrus
Matthew-Kevin Poole
Mrs. Lynde-Trich Zaitoon
Diana-Hannah Stewart
Teen Diana-Meredith Salter
Young Diana-Jentry Sullivan
Gilbert -Nathan Salter
Teen Gilbert-Sam Tarron
Young Gilbert- Anthony Sullivan
Mr. Phillips/Fred- Rodney Hudson
Mrs. Barry-Meagan Sellers
Christine Stuart-Katie Ellis
Ruby Gillis-Erin Shirley
Charlie Sloane-Matthew Leake
Jane/ Mary Jo-Maddie Almond
Lottie Wright- Allie Bond
Benji Sloane-Andrew Slimp
Rose Bell White-Sam Bond
Paul-Eli Poole
Annetta Bell/ Minnie May-Audrey Mckee
Mrs. Bell-Kelli Blankenship
Mrs. Sloane-Ashley Castillo
Students: Emma Shirley, Asher Renfroe, Natalie Blankenship
Backstage Dresser-Stormy Witter

Reviewed Performance: 4/28/2017

Reviewed by LK Fletcher, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Anne Shirley is a wildly independent orphan with fiery red hair and a temper to match. Although she arrives in Avonlea by mistake, she ultimately charms the entire town into falling in love with her precocious and imaginative mind, her passion and her heart. Adapted from the timeless book, Anne of Green Gables wins over audiences with this warm, poignant story about love and home that will delight the whole family.

It was a ton of fun to be packed into the small but mighty Plaza Theatre for their opening night of a world premiere (!) adaptation of the 1906 classic children’s novel “Anne of Green Gables”. The story has received a lot of frequent flyer miles in the past century. The book has been adapted as films, made-for-television movies, and animated and live-action television series. Musicals and plays have also been created, with productions annually in Canada since 1964 of the first musical production, which has toured in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Japan. Ms. Ibarra’s adaptation captures the heart and essence of the original story with some unique elements that worked exceptionally well in this small community theatre in the round setting.

The script follows the chronology of the original narrative with a bit of a twist. Anne, is portrayed by three actresses. The adult Anne appears at the very beginning of the story as a narrator. As the story unfolds and young Anne appears, adult Anne continues to narrate throughout the story. In act two, after Teen Anne has grown up, Adult Anne leaves her role as narrator –most of the time- to engage in the scenes that follow. There are moments she steps out of the scene to be the narrative voice. All of this is well-executed in the theatre-in-the-round. Ibarra uses visual effects that look like chapter pages in a book. As the scenes change we are shown Chapter “titles” to take us forward in the story.

The show was, in Barrus style, well dressed. (You will note that the Barrus family is the cornerstone of this production company- cast and crew) Tina Barrus is a tour-de-force with a sewing machine and does not disappoint. There were a few costume changes that were rushed- dresses not buttoned, skirts not zipped- nothing that detracted from a well-dressed cast in their early 20th century provincial wear. The wedding scene was especially well heeled and the costumes of the children in the school house were beautifully detailed.

Visually the set was dependent on a minimal number of set pieces to create scenes. Plaza Theatre does a consistently fine job at this. A horse drawn wagon- well staged, a row boat- also well staged, and a gate to Green Gables- a bit of a problem. Many of the cast members, scene after scene, were not sure whether to push or pull the gate. So, instead of trying push then pull (because ‘push’ did not work) they forced themselves through a 3 inch opening to the entertainment of all. Something about adrenaline on stage actors don’t recover from challenges logically. ☺

The show ran about an hour each act and is paced well. Sound was excellent for an opening night, original music and screen projections all added a high level of accessibility and believability to the setting of the story. Scene changes were manic and fast. The cast was caught in the lights a couple of times in transitions that need to be tighter- not an easy task in a sold out theatre with narrow exits and limited backstage space.

Ibarra did a beautiful job casting 3 roles in EACH cast in 3 different generations. Diana, Gilbert and Anne are all cast as children, youth and adults----- in two different casts. Youza! Finding a real red head is hard enough- much less 6 of them at appropriate ages, looks and talent. Thank goodness the Barrus family includes red heads.

The title role of Anne –evolving from Mimi Barrus (Young Anne) to Eden Barrus, (Teen Anne) and Julia Wood (Anne) was really charming to watch. Mimi Barrus is cute, cute, cute! Miss Mimi is precocious and sassy and very comfortable on the stage. (The Barrus kids spend a lot of time there.) Mimi charms the audience from day one and passes the baton effortlessly to big sister, Eden. It seems that the story spent more time on Young Anne than Teen Anne, but Eden makes an equally effective impact on sharing the effervescent Anne. Julia Wood is winsome, warm and charming as the narrator. The three red heads share and create an engaging and thoroughly likeable, Anne of Green Gables.

Anne is surrounded by some strong characters on Prince Edward Island. When Anne is collected from the orphanage and brought to her new home, aging siblings Mathew and Marilla Cuthbert are expecting an 11-year-old boy to help run their farm in Avonlea. Quiet, kindhearted Matthew takes an instant shine to the outspoken feisty girl. Matthew’s no-nonsense sister Marilla, has to make considerable adjustment to both herself and Anne as they reconcile their differences. Matthew (Kevin Poole) and Marilla (Katy Wood) were outstanding in their performances. Poole speaks volumes before he says a word. He has a gentle smile, an engaging persona and listens incredibly well on stage. He is well paired with Wood who has no problem playing complex characters with aplomb. Wood never backs down from her principles or her work ethic but remains likeable and eventually lovable in a genuine portrayal of Marilla. The Cuthbert characters build an immediate rapport with all three of the Annes and the audience.

The role of Mrs. Lynde, played by a biting Trich Zaitoon, was both refreshing and clever. Zaitoon wields a one liner like an axe. Likewise, the ensemble and children were highly engaged and believable in the production. Anne of Green Gables has so many interesting characters but the current that runs through the story is that each of us is likable, and so we must like these characters. Even in our own difficult circumstances, we recognize redemptive qualities of others and we in turn, are drawn to them as we share our lives and learn the value of community.

If you can get a ticket, do so now, Avonlea is a beautiful place to visit.

Plaza Theatre Company
111 S. Main St. Cleburne, TX 76033

Ticket Prices:
Adults - $18
Seniors (65+) - $16
Students (HS and College) - $16
Children (12 and under) - $13
Group rates available for ten or more
Show Times are Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30PM and Saturday Matinee at 3PM
Show runs thru May 20, 2017. Most shows are SOLD OUT.