The Charlottetown Festival is breathing new life into its oldest musical.
“Anne of Green Gables: The Musical’’ is getting a brand new, 17-foot revolving stage that will be in place well before the curtain goes up on June 18.
The centre is investing $225,000 into scenery upgrades this year, which include the floor, revolve and the technology to operate it. It also includes new and upgraded scenery elements.
“The whole process began when we realized that the festival was at a place where we would have to reinvest into either the existing design for repairs and updates or we would take that investment and invest into a new vision for the piece,’’ said Adam Brazier, the festival’s artistic director.
Last year, the festival made investments in set pieces, including a new Green Gables, drops and new costumes. The changes also come two years after the centre spent about $2 million from the federal government for a state-of-the-art orchestra and stage lift.
This time, the investment is going into a new main stage.
“No longer is it going to be a blank black stage,’’ Brazier said. “Now, it will look like a visual textured stage, like a weathered hardwood (with) a very rural feel towards it. The whole stage will have a beautiful hardwood pattern, but in the centre of the stage is a massive 17-foot (revolving piece).’’
The artistic director said it will allow them tremendous opportunity to create the illusion of distance and travel.
The revolving stage will allow the audience to experience what Anne Shirley experiences, when the character experiences it. When Anne sees Green Gables for the first time, so will the audience.
Brazier said the 1964 musical was originally written in a “down one’’ form, meaning that when the curtain comes up to reveal a set, the scene happens and then a curtain descends behind the actors and another scene takes place in front of another curtain. Meanwhile, stage hands are changing the set in the background for the next scene.
“You’re doing the entire show in front of a down curtain . . . you’re always working in your set changes. This frees us up from the constraints of that. I believe, visually, this will allow us to create a larger sense of space. Allowing the revolve we find ourselves to be able to see the same thing from a 365-degree angle.’’
It will also allow the show to rotate an entire line of actors and dancers during the egg and spoon race “without actually having to move the actors, so we’re giving the audience a totally different angle’’.
Brazier said while the changes are exciting, he’s quick to note the essence of “Anne’’ won’t change a bit. They’re not adding projections or any other kind of bells and whistles. The charm remains unaltered.
“You don’t want to change the show; you want to enhance it; you want to celebrate it for what it is at its best, not to try to turn it into something it’s not.’’
Brazier isn’t sure when the revolving stage will be in place, but suffice to say it will be well before opening night.
“As an actor, I can tell you it takes time to get used to (a revolving stage) . . . so we’ve got to get our dancers comfortable with that; we’ve got to get them used to dancing on something that’s moving.’’
The revolving stage will not be used for the festival’s other production “Jesus Christ Superstar’’. The ‘superstar’ stage will simply be placed on top of the ‘Anne’ stage.