Volume 12 Week 5

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Orléans Ward
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(Posted 9 p.m., May 26)

Strong performance by lead actress makes OYP's Anne of Green Gables a must-see play
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Audrey Matheson is truly wonderful as Anne Shirley in the OYP production of 'Anne of Green Gables' on this weekend at the Shenkman Arts Centre. Fred Sherwin Photo

As a member of the Orléans Young Players Theatre School, Audrey Matheson has been learning the craft of acting for the past eight years, during which time time she has never played a lead role.

All that changed when artistic director Kathi Langston cast her to play Anne in the recent OYP Student Showcase production of "Anne of Green Gables".

In a word, Matheson was born to play Anne Shirley. She captured the audience's hearts from her opening scene in which the brother of her soon-to-be new guardian picks her up at the train station and takes her back to Green Gables in a horse drawn buggy.

During the scene Matheson rips through her lines with an unbridled and reckless abandon that left everyone in the audience breathless, not to mention the young actress herself. Her enthusiasm in playing Anne, especially as a young school girl, was infectious.

And while Matheson's performance as Anne was amazing, it wasn't the only standout performance of the play. Gisele Rivest did an excellent job as Marilla, and Biz MacDonald was wonderful self as the town busy-body Rachel Lynde. So too was Cassie Lavigne who played Anne's bestie Dianna Barry. In fact, the entire cast who played Anne's school friends were incredible.

The play was an immense challenge for Langston who had to fill a number of roles including teacher, director, script writer, and perhaps, most challenging of all, lead wrangler of the 75-member cast and crew. But somehow she managed to pull it all together and the result was one of the most entertaining OYP productions in recent memory.

It tells the story of the befreckled, redhaired girl from her adoption by Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert to her graduation from teachers college and includes a scene in which the audience gets to learn about Anne's early years before she arrived at Green Gables, including the death of her parents and how she ended up in an orphanage.

There's even a scene at the beginning of the second half of the play, where Anne's deceased parents talk about how proud they are of the young lady their daughter has become through the magic of a voice over.

Having seen the musical version of "Anne of Green Gables" at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown some years back, I was somewhat skeptical that an OYP class would be able to pull off a non-musical version. To say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement.

It's too bad that unlike the Charlottetown production, which runs all summer, the OYP play was limited to three performances -- one on Friday night and two on Saturday. Thankfully I was among the 400 or so souls that saw it.

Bravo to the entire cast and crew, and bravo to Kathi Langston for producing another wonderfully entertaining play.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)



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Posted Jan. 12

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