Anne of Green Gables (Original London Cast Recording)
This recording session REALLY began somewhere around the turn of the century when a young Canadian woman made a note of a newspaper item which read: “Elderly couple apply to Orphanage for a boy. By mistake a girl is sent.” From this came Lucy Maud Montgomery’s novel “Anne of Green Gables.” That was 1908 and the book is now available throughout the world in 39 different languages.
In 1922 a silent film version of the book appeared starring Mary Miles Minter. In 1936, a young actress Dawn O’Day changed her name to Anne Shirley when she appeared in the “Talkie.”
In 1955 TV producer-director Norman Campbell asked actor Donald Harron for an idea to fill up ninety minutes of television time. Harron suggested a musical version of “Anne of Green Gables” because he happened to be reading the book to his two daughters at the time. The 1956 TV musical “Anne” was a success and was repeated in 1958. Most of it was written when Harron was in New York and Campbell in Toronto, and there was much humming of new tunes over long distance phones. In 1965, Mayor Moore, artistic director of the newly formed Confederation Theatre in Prince Edward Island, the locale of the novel, commissioned a stage version of the TV musical. Harron was film acting in California and Campbell was film directing in Denmark so the humming of new tunes over long distance phones was more expensive. The Canadian production, directed and choreographed by Alan Lund, has been running every summer in Prince Edward Island since 1965, and had a sell-out coast to coast tour of Canada in 1967. It has been chosen to represent Canadian theatre at EXPO 70 in Osaka, Japan.
The London production of “Anne” was planned by fellow-Canadian Bill Freedman because his children happened to approve of the novel. It was an entirely new production again under the direction of Alan Lund. This time Campbell was directing a TV series with Liberace in London while Harron was acting in Shakespeare in Chicago. More new tunes, more humming, more phone bills.
Throughout this telephone odyssey Lucy Maud Montgomery’s story has remained intact: the people of the little Prince Edward Island village of Avonlea are curious to know what bachelor Matthew Cuthbert and his spinster sister Marilla are up to when Matthew appears in his Sunday suit on a Tuesday (“WHERE IS MATTHEW GOING”).
Actually he is going to the local railway station to collect an orphan boy from Nova Scotia who will help with the work on the farm. The boy turns out to be a girl, and she is overjoyed to have a new home (“GEE I’M GLAD I’M NO ONE ELSE BUT ME”) and Matthew hasn’t the heart to tell her the truth. He is even changing his mind about the necessity of having a boy farm labourer, but when he takes Anne home his sister Marilla is adamant about the mistake (“WE CLEARLY REQUESTED A BOY”). Next day she attempts to unload the girl on another family, but when she learns about Anne’s wretched background (“THE FACTS”) she too relents. Anne’s first social call at Green Gables comes from a nosy neighbour, Mrs Rachel Lynde, who makes brutally frank remarks about the child’s appearance. Anne’s hurt reply is just as savage and she is ordered to apologise by Marilla. When she refuses she is sent to her room. However, Matthew manages to persuade her by outlining his philosophy of life (“HUMBLE PIE”) and Anne overwhelms all of them with the extent of her apology (“OH MRS LYNDE!”).
The orphan’s first day at school is a fresh disaster when her temper erupts again. She is teased about her looks by fellow student Gilbert Blythe and smashes her slate over his head. Gilbert is not quite sure what hit him (“WONDERIN!”) and his would-be girl friend Josie Pye, jealous of Anne, spreads an exaggerated version of the slate-cracking incident throughout the town (“DID YOU HEAR?”). But truth will out and Anne’s reputation IS saved in time for her to attend the Annual Church picnic, where she increases her animosity for Gilbert Blythe, but enjoys her first taste of an exotic new ambrosia (“ICE CREAM”).
After summer vacation the pupils return to school (“WHERE DID THE SUMMER GO TO?”). Anne renews her feud with Gilbert Blythe, but pledges undying devotion to her best friend, Diana Barry (“KINDRED SPIRITS”). School now becomes a joy to our heroine because of the presence of a new and dynamic teacher, Miss Muriel Stacy (“LEARN EVERYTHING”). Home life is somewhat dampened by Anne’s disappointment over a puff-less sleeve dress made for her by Marilla. When Matthew tries to give his opinion he is shushed by his sister and can only vent his frustration by discussing it with the farm animals (“WHEN I SAY MY SAY”). Anne’s rivalry with Gilbert Blythe reaches white heat when they both compete for a scholarship (“I’LL SHOW HIM) and Matthew finally takes action on behalf of Anne’s limited wardrobe (“GENERAL STORE”). When the results of the scholarship are announced everyone in town takes credit for our heroine’s achievements (“IF IT HADN’T BEEN FOR ME”) but the real assessment comes form Anne’s most devoted fan, Matthew (“ANNE OF GREEN GABLES”). Marilla articulates her feelings about both Matthew and Anne (“THE WORDS”).
Liner notes taken from the original 1969 LP release