New Anne of Green Gables musical to premiere in New York State

Two New York City playwrights are on the verge of a world premiere of their new musical featuring Prince Edward Island's favourite fictional character.

'It's exciting that it's inspired so many different writers'

Two New York City playwrights are on the verge of a world premiere of their new musical featuring Prince Edward Island's favourite fictional character.

The new musical premieres at the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival July 5. (Submitted by Matte O'Brien)

Anne of Green Gables - A New Folk Rock Musical will open at Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival in Auburn, N.Y., on July 5.

Co-creator Matte O'Brien has never been to P.E.I. or seen Anne of Green Gables: The Musical, or even seen the new Netflix series.

But O'Brien grew up reading the Anne books, and he and his writing partner Matt Vinson wanted to really focus on what Montgomery wrote.

Matte O'Brien has been avoiding watching what others have done with Anne of Green Gables. (New Play Exchange)

"We wanted to make sure we were working off the original source material and not other interpretations," said O'Brien.

"But that's what's amazing about the material. It's exciting that it's inspired different writers to do different things and take different angles on it."

Intimate and larger than life

O'Brien said finding the right approach for the musical was a struggle at first. It took close to a year to find the right approach.

"We wanted to capture, obviously, the world of Prince Edward Island as best we could, that feel of community," he said.

"But also … musicals live at this heightened level, and we were trying to figure out how do we blow it out so it can feel small and intimate but also blow out into a bigger, larger-than-life thing."

Finally, they struck on the idea of bringing Anne's larger imaginings to the stage alongside the presentation of the tight-knit community of Avonlea.

"Anne starts to conjure, for lack of a better word, her imagination, which she's famous for, and then we see that come to life on the stage," said O'Brien.

O'Brien is trying not to get too far ahead of himself in terms of the future of the musical. His agent is talking about a show in New York and somewhere in Canada after the Finger Lakes run.

Once the show is on the stage, O'Brien is planning to binge watch all the Anne productions he can find to catch up on how other artists have interpreted the classic story, and he is also planning a trip to P.E.I. in August.

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With files from Matt Rainnie