Like a ray of sunshine breaking through the November clouds comes Village Theatre's world-premiere production of "Anne of Green Gables." Old-fashioned, charming and technically near-perfect, this brand-new adaption of the 1908 classic book is a bright and simple pleasure: shiny and easy to like.
The original score - by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman - is gorgeous and lush, with plenty of spot-on harmony from the excellent choir. Like Junie B. Jones' articulate older sister, Kasey Nusbickel's Anne is practically exploding with puppy-like exhuberance, all wide-eyed and golly-gee, and prone to hugging surprised (and stiff-backed) adults. I don't know why she didn't become annoying, but she didn't - possibly thanks to her bell-clear voice and earnest delivery. Suzy Hunt's Marilla (Anne's adoptive mother) shines as a reluctant cynic; her grudging yet growing affection for her handful of a kid reaching a moving crescendo with the gorgeous "Through the Eyes of One You Love."
At nearly three hours, this production is long, but there is always something to look at, thanks to elaborate choreography by Steve Tomkins and Kristin Culp, whose inventive staging was entertaining and effective at showing the passage of time. Set on the Canadian island of Avonlea, the set is reminiscent of a Northwest rain forest, with giant trees towering over quick and tidy scene changes.
Kids will love this production. The story line - a plucky orphan girl transforms into a confident young woman, winning hearts along the way - will appeal to girls especially, but boys will like the fast-moving action. The show's length - 2 hours and 45 minutes - combined with a sad story line (Anne's adoptive father has a heart attack and dies) -- makes this a better fit for kids about age 9 or so.
'Anne of Green Gables' runs through Jan. 2 in downtown Issaquah and Jan. 7-30 in downtown Everett. For tickets and more information, visit villagetheatre.org.