Village Theatre preps precocious ‘Anne of Green Gables’ for debut

November 2, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

Suzy Hunt as Marilla Cuthbert (left), Kasey Nusbickel as Anne Shirley and Dennis Bateman as Matthew Cuthbert perform in the production of ‘Anne of Green Gables’ at Village Theatre. By Jon Pai/Village Theatre

The latest offering from Village Theatre — the coming-of-age tale “Anne of Green Gables” — is adapted from a century-old novel, but rest assured, the stage rendition does not require CliffsNotes for the uninitiated.

The original musical is pulled from the pages of the classic Lucy Maud Montgomery series — the story of a carrot-haired orphan set in bucolic Avonlea on Prince Edward Island.

Scribes Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman last presented the piece to Village Theatre audiences as a barebones reading at the 2009 Festival of New Musicals. The full-fledged show — fine-tuned since the festival — opens Nov. 11 at the downtown Issaquah theater.

“The material, in many ways, works beautifully,” co-director Vanessa Miller said. “It’s a classic story, and we all really relate to the central character of Anne.”

Miller directs the piece alongside longtime Artistic Director Steve Tomkins.

The musical starts as headstrong Anne Shirley lands in Avonlea after Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a brother-and-sister duo, decide to adopt a boy to handle farm chores. Instead, due to a mix-up, the orphanage sends a 12-year-old girl.

“There’s this precocious, verbal, imaginative, red-headed Anne,” Miller said.

The exuberant girl has some trouble in the children-should-be-seen-and-not-heard ethos in the Cuthbert household.

“Because her surroundings continue to change, and because her sense of family hasn’t been formed, she has an extremely vivid imagination and is creating imaginary worlds all around her,” Miller said.

The search for friends in unfamiliar Avonlea also causes Anne to stumble from time to time. The musical, like the book, plays up the setbacks for laughs.

“She desperately wants to win people over, and in doing so, in her enthusiasm to find friends and find a sense of herself in the community, she’s just making social mistakes right, left and center,” Miller said.

The creative team turned to Seattle actress Kasey Nusbickel for the title character, or, as the actress describes her, “the coolest little girl.” In the role, the 30-year-old actress depicts Anne from adolescence to adulthood.

The production relies on a series of costumes, plus changes in fashion and hairstyles, to suggest different ages. Nusbickel is a brunette, so the creative team uses a series of wigs to provide the red tresses needed for the production.

Before Nusbickel portrayed Anne in the 2009 festival reading, the actress read the original novel.

“It makes you cry. It makes you laugh. It makes you think about yourself in the context of a community,” she said.

For Nusbickel, the product of a small town in Georgia, the depiction of life in tight-knit Avonlea resonated.

“The older I get the more I realize that that is the kind of setting where I would like to raise my family as well,” she said. “Avonlea really taps into that part of me.”

If you go

‘Anne of Green Gables’

  • Village Theatre — Francis J. Gaudette Theatre
  • 303 Front St. N.
  • Nov. 11 – Jan. 2
  • Show times vary
  • $20 – $60
  • 392-2202 or

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

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