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Canada's Ballet Jorgen's production of 'Anne of Green Gables - The Ballet.'Jim Orgill/Ballet Jörgen

  • Canada’s Ballet Jorgen’s Anne of Green Gables – The Ballet
  • Original choreography by Bengt Jorgen
  • Based on Anne of Green Gables – The Musical
  • Music composed by Norman Campbell
  • Ballet score arranged by Alexander Levkovich

Bengt Jorgen applies a rosy filter that works beautifully in the brightly imaginative Act 1.Linda Schettle/Ballet Jörgen

How to best tell Anne of Green Gables today? Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1908 novel about a feisty orphan sent to live on a PEI farm has already been retold numerous times, in film and onstage. Recently, CBC-Netflix’s Anne with an E left some critics groaning over its gritty lens, with added characters such as a seedy child abductor. (No surprise to learn creator Moira Walley-Beckett is a former writer on Breaking Bad.) But a large online fan base loves the pumped-up action.

Canada’s Ballet Jorgen’s Anne of Green Gables – The Ballet, which I saw at West Vancouver’s Kay Meek Arts Centre on Saturday, takes a sweeter direction. Bengt Jorgen – a veteran choreographer who has run his Toronto-based touring company since 1987 – applies a rosy filter that works beautifully in the brightly imaginative Act 1, but wasn’t enough to lift Act 2 out from under its heavy plotting.

Much of the sweetness comes from Norman Campbell’s score for Anne of Green Gables – The Musical, arranged here by Alexander Levkovich, to which the ballet is set. By the second half, I found its cheerfulness wearying, but the musical has run every summer in Charlottetown since 1965, so there’s obviously a fan base for super sweet, too.

As for that dash through the second act’s plot points, in the novel, Anne goes from being a lonely orphan with an over-active imagination to a confident young woman who is a beloved member of both her adoptive family and the wider community. This makes for a long character arc involving multiple relationships, which the ballet tries to present in a two-hour evening that includes an intermission.

Nova Scotia’s Hannah Mae Cruddas, as Anne, brings great charm to the ballet.Linda Schettle/Ballet Jörgen

Nova Scotia’s Hannah Mae Cruddas, as Anne, brings great charm to the ballet. She is young enough at 26 to believably portray youth, and she’s a natural redhead – Anne’s defining physical characteristic. More important, Cruddas is an elegant technician and, in romantic duets with Gilbert Blythe (Daniel Da Silva), was emotionally transparent.

The Cuthbert siblings who adopt Anne needed shading to bring to life their individuality as elders living outside the family norm – and more steps. Hiroto Saito’s sprightly Matthew did kick up his heels, but Marilla (Clea Iveson) was too prim and proper to do much.

The ensemble carried off their lightly classical moves in the garden-dream section with finesse. They were also stage-fairies handling props and moving Sue LePage’s miniature-sized, easy-to-tour set pieces (a church exterior, kitchen and schoolroom furniture) as needed. The horse and carriage constructed made almost entirely from dancers, with two forming the horse and each wheel made of two entwined, somersaulting dancers, was wonderful choreographic magic. At such inventive moments, it seemed as if Anne’s famous imagination had rubbed off on Bengt Jorgen himself.

Anne of Green Gables – The Ballet, which premiered in September in Halifax, tours B.C. till February 28, continuing across Canada and into the U.S. until Spring 2021.

Heather Lumsden-Ruegg, Hannah Mae Cruddas and Hiroto Saito.Cylla von Tiedemann/Ballet Jörgen