Confederation Centre of the Arts turns 50 next year and to celebrate that milestone the producers of the Charlottetown Festival are bringing back one of the most popular shows in the festival’s recent history, Canada ROCKS!
Canada ROCKS!, which played during the 2005 and 2006 seasons, will share the festival’s main stage with the first lady of Canadian musicals, Anne of Green Gables, who will celebrate her own 50th birthday at the festival next year.
The line-up for 2014, which will also see the production of a new musical at The Mack featuring songs about Prince Edward Island by singer-songwriter Lennie Gallant, was announced Thursday at a packed season launch that featured music from all three shows.
“We are also thrilled to announce the premiere of the new musical, Searching for Abegweit: The Songs & Stories of Lennie Gallant, which celebrates Island culture through the music and storytelling of one the region’s most distinguished songwriters,” said festival artistic director Anne Allan.
The centre’s crown jewel, Anne of Green Gables, launches its 50th consecutive season on July 3. The nation’s longest-running musical is an enduring classic told through elaborate sets, modern staging, and charming choreography.
Katie Kerr, who charmed audiences and critics alike with her performance in the lead role of Anne Shirley, and Jessica Gallant, who starred as her bosom friend Diana Barry, will both be back next season to reprise their roles, Allan announced.
Those attending the launch were treated to a short interview captured on video with Don Harron, the last surviving member of the creative team that brought Anne of Green Gables to the festival stage.
In that interview Harron retold the story of the show’s birth. He also provided some insight into the principles that guided he and his co-creators through that process.
“A wise man once told me to always be faithful to your author,” said Harron, the musical’s original scriptwriter and co-lyricist. “I knew that Lucy Maud Montgomery was always the boss, and that it was our job to bring her vision to the stage-to Charlottetown.”
Canada ROCKS!, a musical revue featuring some of the biggest Canadian hit songs ever recorded, was a crowd pleaser during its previous two-year-run.
Inspired by the 1970 Festival Express, the show presents the music of over 70 Canadian artists during a cross-Canada train trip that will commence in Vancouver and conclude in Charlottetown with a major concert sequence.
“This remounted rock odyssey is substantially revised from the original, and includes modern breakout artists like Feist, Arcade Fire, Metric, Carly Rae Jepsen, Justin Beiber, and more,” Allan said.
Legends such as Neil Young, Rush, The Tragically Hip, Anne Murray, Bryan Adams and Blue Rodeo will also be recognized. And special tributes to Rita MacNeil, and P.E.I.’s own Dr. Music, Doug Riley, will be incorporated into the show.
Searching for Abegweit: The Songs & Stories of Lennie Gallant, which Gallant will star in, will see his songs interwoven with comedic stories, Island legends, projections from renowned visual artist Karen Gallant, and rousing fiddle and dance numbers.
“I knew that Lucy Maud Montgomery was always the boss, and that it was our job to bring her vision to the stage-to Charlottetown.” Don Harron, the last surviving member of the creative team that brought Anne of Green Gables to the festival stage
Directed by Wade Lynch, the festival’s associate artistic director, this colourful spectacle will feature such popular Gallant pennings Peter’s Dream and Island Clay, as well as new Island-themed songs from his forthcoming studio album, Abegweit.
“I am very excited to showcase a collection of original songs and folk stories during this major anniversary year for the province and for Confederation Centre,” says Gallant. “I look forward to sharing in the celebration of where we come from as Islanders; who we are, and what our bright hopes are for the future.”
Next season will be the last for Allan.
She announced Thursday she will be leaving at the close of the 2014 season, bringing down the curtain on 10 years of work, a period that brought the festival some of its greatest successes, including this year’s production of Evangeline, the re-imagining of Anne of Green Gables and Canada ROCKS.
Various reunions, luncheons, and special programming will be announced in the months to come to honour the centre’s 50th anniversary.
To celebrate its first 50 years the festival is offering 50 per cent off all tickets for a limited time only. Tickets will be on sale from Nov. 16-30. Some restrictions apply.