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The New Anne Shirley

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The Next Anne Shirley

Trading Kinky Boots’ red heels for red braids, AJ Bridel is set for school again. The 22-year-old actress will become the 18th triple threat to play Anne Shirley at The Charlottetown Festival, joining an all new production led by Artistic Director Adam Brazier.

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2017 marks the first time Brazier will direct the treasured Island musical, and his search for the iconic hero of Avonlea was exhaustive. “AJ brings the kind of imagination, desire, and youthful excitement that is essential to the role,” he explains. “I am very excited to begin the rehearsal process and bring this new Anne Shirley to our stage.”

Born in Calgary and raised in Kitchener, Ontario, Bridel is a rising star of Canadian theatre. In 2016 she won a Toronto Critics Award and Dora nomination for her turn as ‘Lauren’ in Mirvish’s Kinky Boots and also starred in the Ross Petty panto Sleeping Beauty. She made a national splash in 2012, placing in the top-3 on CBC TV’s Over the Rainbow reality talent competition and went on to play Dorothy in Drayton’s The Wizard of Oz. Her turn as Anne Shirley will mark her Festival debut as well as her first time on the East Coast.

For her part, Bridel is honoured to join the Festival, calling it a dream role. “I cannot wait to spend the summer on this beautiful island, working with one of Canada’s greatest directors, Adam Brazier and recreating Anne of Green Gables with the incredible cast and crew he has assembled,” she enthuses. “Anne is a Canadian treasure and I am so excited to put those red braids on and try my best to fill the shoes of the incredible actresses who have loved her as much as I do!”

Stay tuned for more exciting announcements as this is the first of several changes towards a revived Anne™ production with Brazier at the helm. Casting news will soon be revealed for ‘Matthew,’ ‘Marilla,’ ‘Rachel Lynde,’ ‘Diana,’ and ‘Gilbert.’

Set designer Cory Sincennes – who has made waves with striking Festival designs (Mamma Mia! and Bittergirl) and at theatres across the country – is hard at work imagining a new visual aesthetic for the now 53-year-strong production. The Festival’s Musical Director Bob Foster is also exploring a new sound design for the show with Peter McBoyle (Evangeline) and other changes. Choreographer Robin Calvert will return in 2017 as well.

Anne of Green Gables—The Musical™ begins it Guinness Record Holding 53rd consecutive season June 26, playing the Homburg Theatre until September 23. Appreciation is extended to the title sponsor for The 2017 Charlottetown Festival, CIBC. Media sponsors are Ocean 100, Hot 105.5, and The Guardian.

Island Strong Anne Opens

The curtain lifted last night at 7:30 p.m. on an especially Island-strong edition of the long-running musical Anne of Green Gables. Jessica Gallant of Ten Mile House, P.E.I. stars as the world-famous orphan, with Charlottetown’s Hank Stinson and Aaron Hastelow as Matthew Cuthbert and Gilbert Blythe. This marks the first time an Islander has played Gilbert in the historic production, and thus the first time both romantic leads have been played by locals.

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Festival veteran Marlane O’Brien, of Crapaud, P.E.I. plays iconic busy-body, Miss Rachel Lynde, while Dora Award-winner Charlotte Moore reprises her turn as Marilla Cuthbert. New Island home-owner Katie Kerr returns to the role that first brought her to the Festival, as Diana Barry, and another Festival favourite and ‘Islander-by-choice’, Josée Boudreau debuts as Miss Stacey.

The creative team that brought the Guinness Record-holding musical to life last season has returned in 2016, with Wade Lynch in the director’s chair alongside Musical Director Bob Foster and Choreographer Robin Calvert.

“With a history that has enjoyed success under some of the country’s greatest directors, and that has benefited from the talents of legions of actors, musicians, designers, technicians, and theatre artisans of every stripe, it is no small task to approach a new season with the responsibility of maintaining the high standards of previous productions while attempting to bring something new to the play and the story,” says Lynch, who performed in many seasons of the beloved musical himself.

“That said, we must never treat our production as an antique; Anne is new every time the curtain goes up,” he continues. “When Anne Shirley arrives at Bright River she is not only encountering the possibility of a new family, she is entering a whole new world. As theatre artists it is our challenge and our responsibility to present a musical theatre experience that is new for every performance. With the tremendous talents and abilities of our 2016 company, you can be certain that the Anne of Green Gables experience our audiences enjoy this summer is brand spanking new!”

Anne of Green Gables plays select dates until August 27. Confederation Centre wishes to recognize CIBC as the returning title sponsor of The Charlottetown Festival. The Centre also acknowledges the Department of Canadian Heritage; the Government of P.E.I., and the City of Charlottetown for continued support. Media sponsors are The Guardian, Hot 105.5, Ocean 100, and CTV.