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Anne of Green Gables - the musical

The Story

It's 1972 and Anne of Green Gables: The Musical has been playing to sold out audiences at the Charlottetown Festival for the past seven years. Originally created for CBC Television in the 1950s, the production manages to capture the spirit of Montgomery's red-haired heroine in what has proven to be the most successful adaptation of her work to date. This clip from a CBC Television documentary finds the show's creators looking back on its popularity and how it put Anne Shirley back in the spotlight. 

Medium: Television
Program: Telescope
Broadcast Date: March 21, 1972
Guest(s): Norman Campbell, Don Harron, Jack MacAndrew
Duration: 6:46

Did You know?

• Since 1908 there have been many attempts to adapt Montgomery's most famous work.
• 1919 saw the first Anne adaptation in the form of a Hollywood-produced film. The silent movie version of Anne of Green Gables was supposed to feature Canadian starlet Mary Pickford in the lead role. But due to scheduling conflicts, the role fell to actress Mary Miles Minter.
• The film was a minor hit, but irritated many, including Montgomery, since the producers decided to set the film in Philadelphia.

• In 1934 an RKO big-screen talkie adaptation proved very successful. The film was such a hit that the lead actress changed her professional name from Dawn O'Day to Anne Shirley.
• Montgomery was also upset by this version, noting that the flag that was flying over Anne Shirley's school was an American one.

• By the time Don Harron and Norman Campbell came along in 1956, Anne of Green Gables was still in print, but had yet to get a proper adaptation.
• Inspired by the original book, Harron imagined a stage version that communicated the complex emotions of its heroine through song.
• Harron handled the writing while journeyman musician Norman Campbell composed the lyrics.

Anne of Green Gables: The Musical debuted on CBC Television March 4, 1956, at 10 p.m. EST on CBC's Folio. It starred Toby Tarnow as Anne Shirley and John Drainie as Matthew Cuthbert.
• A second CBC Television production was staged in November 1958 and starred Kathy Willard.
• The first theatre adaptation was commissioned for the first season of the Charlottetown Festival in 1965.

• In expanding their musical for the stage Harron enlisted Campbell's wife Elaine and theatre veteran Mavor Moore to write several additional songs. The musical debuted on July 27, 1965, with orchestral music by John Fenwick.
• That first version was directed by Alan Lund, and featured American actress Jamie Ray in the lead role. As the festival director Jack McAndrew recalls in this clip, it was an immediate success.

• The musical has run each summer for the past 40 years, making it Canada's longest running stage show.
• The P.E.I. tourism bureau estimates that over 2.1 million people had seen the show in Charlottetown as of 2003.
• It also states than in total more than 3.3 million people have seen the musical live in productions in Charlottetown, and in theatres across Canada, New York, London and Japan.


Beyond Green Gables: The Life of Lucy Maud Montgomery more