The set of Anne of Green Gables: The Musical in its (very) early stages. Photo: Barbara Roden.

The set of Anne of Green Gables: The Musical in its (very) early stages. Photo: Barbara Roden.

Theatre Diaries 6: On with the show

One more dress rehearsal before opening night; and the cast and crew are ready.

On October 24 we have our first rehearsal on what is—or what soon will be—the complete stage, set up in the gym at the Ashcroft HUB. When I stop by at noon on my way to a meeting the risers for the seating have been set up, with assistance from grad students at Desert Sands Community School, and the Green Gables farmhouse fixed set has started taking shape, thanks to the work of a dedicated work crew.

By the time I return at 5 p.m. for our rehearsal, even more has been added to the set. We have more space than we did in our rehearsal room, which takes some getting used to; and it’s the first time that Vivian McLean as Anne has had to climb down a ladder from her second-storey bedroom to meet with Matthew Cuthbert.

Vivian’s a trouper, but she’s just a trifle leery about tackling the ladder. Jim Mertel as Matthew assures her that he’s got the ladder steady, and the scene proceeds without incident.

A number of large set-pieces that the cast hasn’t seen before—the train station platform, the rows of desks for the schoolroom, a buggy—are now in play, and as it’s the first time they’ve been used there are … challenges. The train platform proves obstinate when it comes to wheeling it on from backstage; carpet that’s been put under the rows of desks, to make them move smoothly and silently, curls back on itself. As each challenge is revealed, set designer Jim Duncan calls out confidently “We’ll fix it.”

A breakaway slate has been designed for the scene when Anne famously breaks her slate over Gilbert Blythe’s head when he calls her “Carrots”. Tonight sees the first performance of the slate in action. It does indeed break away when Vivian applies it to Matthias Sampson’s head; but the reaction from both indicates it was a bit rougher than expected. Hmm; there are (including rehearsals) another 11 slate-breakings to go.

Director Mavourneen Varcoe-Ryan has detailed notes for the actors after each of the two acts. “We have a show here,” she says after Act Two; but there are rough spots, and we all know it. Five more rehearsals to make it right.

At a rehearsal on October 25 overseen by musical director Theresa Takacs, Mavourneen and stage manager Jessica Clement take the opportunity to go over costumes. Actors parade in and out of the rehearsal room in their costumes, with Mavourneen saying “Yay” or “Nay” to various items, and Jessica recording all the approved costume choices, as well as what alterations need to be made.

There are rehearsals on October 26 and 27; the latter sees the introduction of real ice cream for a scene where Gilbert gets tripped and accidentally hits Anne in the mouth with it. Unfortunately, the ice cream cone misses Anne’s mouth, and lands on the stage. The scene finishes with a blackout, and Jesssica’s voice rings out immediately. “No one move!” she calls, followed by “Can we get some stage lights up?”

The technical rehearsal on October 29 is a long one,. It’s geared towards making sure the light and sound cues are in place, and more than once Mavourneen calls out “Can we take that back?” to the actors, so they can start a scene again to make sure the lighting is right.

October 30 sees the first dress rehearsal, with all actors in full costume and make-up. There’s no more sitting in the auditorium between scenes; we’re all backstage, or in the rehearsal room, when we’re not needed. A baby monitor in the rehearsal room lets us hear what’s happening on stage, so we can be ready to be in place for our next scene.

At the end of the rehearsal Mavourneen has notes for us all. One more dress rehearsal to go; then it’s opening night. We’ve come a long way since that first table read back in June, and now it’s show time. We’re ready.

Anne of Green Gables: The Musical is at the Ashcroft HUB for five shows from November 2 to 5 (7 p.m. on November 2, 3, and 4; 1 p.m. on November 4 and 5). Tickets are $15 (adults) and $10 (youth; children under age six are free) in advance, and can be purchased at the HUB or online at Tickets at the door are $20 (adults) and $15 (youth), and 40 seats at the November 5 matinee are on a “pay as you can” basis.

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