It's a first for the Charlottetown Festival — an entire family of four onstage together in Anne of Green Gables —The Musical. The Guy family of Toronto are portraying a fictional family in Avonlea: Cecil Sloan the farmer, his wife Mrs. Sloan, and their two daughters.
Stephen Guy-McGrath reprises the role of Cecil this season while daughter Eleanor, 11, also returns for a second season as a child of Avonlea. Melanie Phillipson, who is Guy-McGrath's wife, plays Mrs. Spencer and Mrs. Sloan, and Mairead Guy, 5, is making her stage debut as a child of Avonlea. Guy-McGrath also has a main role in the mainstage show Million Dollar Quartet and Phillipson will star in the world premiere of A Misfortune at The Mack in September.
"It's not very often you get to act with your whole family … it's pretty cool," said Eleanor Guy, while laughing that her dad's backstage hijinks are "embarrassing."
'Best of both worlds'
A happy surprise for Phillipson is that, even though they're working together, each family member still has autonomy.
"That was kind of my big worry working with my family for the first time — I've never worked with my husband before, nor with my children," she shared.
"Going to work is my relaxing time. But coming here I'm getting best of both worlds, and I didn't know if was going to be like that."
'Able to stay together as a family'
Guy-McGrath credits Anne director Adam Brazier, also the Centre's artistic director, with making the show a welcoming place for the family to work and live together.
"It's very difficult in this industry — you work in different places, you're keeping multiple households going if you have a family — you're often separated from your family," he said.
"Being able to stay together as a family makes a huge difference and makes it viable, frankly, so we're very appreciative of Adam and the Centre as a whole for encouraging that," Guy-McGrath said. This is the first year the family hasn't had the stress of scheduling and paying for child care, Phillipson added.
"Far too often artists must leave their loved ones at home so they can find work across the country and internationally," Brazier said. "We are very lucky to have Melanie and Stephen returning to the Festival and look forward to watching their children grow on the stage throughout the summer."
"And Avonlea is such a beautiful world for a family to be in," Brazier added.
'Professional and well-behaved'
Guy-McGrath first appeared in the festival when he won a role in Evangeline in 2015. Last year, Brazier asked him back to audition for Mamma Mia! and he was also given the role of Cecil in Anne, while after a small audition Eleanor won a role as one of the children. Phillipson joined them later in the summer after winning a role in the Centre's Belles Soeurs -—The Musical.
"They kind of took it on faith with Mairead," said Guy-McGrath.
"We were a bit concerned because Mairead's still very young, she's five, and it's a big ask and it's late [hours] — we weren't sure how it was going to play out."
But the youngest Guy has taken to performing like a duck to water.
"It's my first time being on stage and it's my first time doing a play — it's really just exciting!" said Mairead Guy. "It's just fun being on stage! It's a young age to start doing plays."
"She has impressed the three of us, certainly, and I think we can say she's impressed everybody else in the company with how professional and well-behaved she is — better-behaved than I am, usually!" her father laughs.
"Eleven and five are a perfect age to do this, because it's not going to be forever that we'll get to do this kind of magical show together," Phillipson said.
"I try to get hugs from all three of them and they all freeze me out every time!" laughs Stephen. "Be professional, dad!"
Both girls love getting dressed up in the period costumes, and are hopeful they'll be able to return to the Charlottetown Festival stage. In fact they both expressed a desire to someday audition for grown-up parts in Anne, including the title role.
Guy-McGrath and Phillipson are also eager to return to the Charlottetown Festival, if it works out.
Eleanor, also a talented singer-songwriter, said she wants to be an actor and an architect when she grows up. She and her father have appeared together in Soulpepper Theatre's A Christmas Carol the last couple of years and hope to return this season.
The best thing about being in Anne together?
"Being able to go to Cows [ice cream] after the show," Phillipson laughed, especially after singing about ice cream in the picnic scence every night.
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