Emma Rudy is star-struck to be part of a one-hour Anne of Green Gables special that will air on Thanksgiving weekend.
“It’s hard to wrap my mind around. It’s stacked,’’ Rudy, a native of Stratford, Ont., told The Guardian when asked about the company she is keeping in this special. “It is amazing (they pulled this off) with this year being so uncertain. The fact this is (happening) is so crazy. Being involved with all of these people is huge. It’s a part of history.’’
Rudy was first cast as the famous red-head for the 2019 Charlottetown Festival season and was set to play the role again this season, which was ultimately cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, even though Anne was kept off the Homburg Theatre stage, fans will still be able to experience the magic through Feelin’ Mighty Proud, a special that will air on Sunday, Oct. 11, on Eastlink as well as the centre’s YouTube and Facebook pages at 9 p.m.
Created by Confederation Centre of the Arts and named for a lyric in one of the songs from the musical, the show is a celebration of famed character Anne Shirley, featuring up-close highlights from Anne of Green Gables – The Musical, cameos from some Canadian icons and reimagining some of the big songs from the show.
Directed by Adam Brazier, the centre’s artistic director, and Jason Rogerson, it is packed with cameo appearances, including Megan Follows, who played Anne Shirley in the 1985 mini-series Anne of Green Gables and its two sequels; Amybeth McNulty and R.H. Thompson, who starred in the Anne with an E show on Netflix; and Gracie Finlay, who played the character at the Charlottetown Festival from 1968-74 and 1984-85.
More than a dozen Charlottetown Festival company members also appear, including Islanders Marlane O’Brien, Glenda Landry, Catherine O’Brien, Hank Stinson, Aaron Hastelow and Michelle Bouey, as well as the Charlottetown Festival orchestra.
Brazier said the intent was to celebrate the Anne character and the story in a year that has kept the musical off the main stage for the first time in its history.
“This is part of our long-term strategy with the centre,’’ Brazier said. “We want to branch into the digital world and we want to have more engagement through the digital world, and this project offered us an opportunity to begin playing with that.’’
The special will also include original interpretations of treasured songs of the famed musical, such as Open the Window from I and the Village, The Words by Lennie Gallant and Gee, I’m Glad I’m No One Else But Me from Meaghan Blanchard.
Brazier said everyone who participated in the special jumped at the chance to take part, talking about what the character Anne Shirley means to them and their relationship to the Lucy Maud Montgomery novel.
“In a way, the people in the documentary have lived in Avonlea,’’ he said. “It affects you and you understand the emotional affect that a figure like Anne Shirley can have, not only in the community but on yourself.’’
Rudy said her parts include some singing and scene work filmed on the main stage for this special. Stinson will play the character of Matthew Cuthbert.
“We filmed it socially distanced, which was a really weird thing to do on camera,’’ said Rudy, who hasn’t seen the finished product.
She even turned down an offer from the production crew to watch the special ahead of time.
“I’m very nervous but I’m also very excited. After seeing the trailer and how great it looks, it’s going to be cool. I just sent my parents the trailer. My father is a wreck,’’ Rudy laughed.
Brazier said the special isn’t just a celebration of the P.E.I.’s relationship with the characters but a celebration of the Island itself.
“My hope is that Islanders will be very proud of it,’’ Brazier said.