Ho! Ho! Head to the Theatre!

A scene from Anne and Gilbert, The Musical. Photo courtesy of the NAC. 

Christmas is always a great time to grab the kids and head to the theatre for a family outing.  There are two shows on in Ottawa right now that fit the bill perfectly. Anne and Gilbert, The Musical is playing at the National Arts Centre and you can also find Angel Square at the GCTC.  Both are very different but each provide a fabulous night out.

Ellen Denny (left) as Anne Shirley. Photo courtesy of the NAC.

Anne and Gilbert, The Musical follows the story of Anne of Green Gables and Gilbert Blythe as their relationship progresses and their lives move from teaching in Avonlea to heading off to university. If you are an Anne fan, this is a must see.  Even if you aren’t at the moment, you will become one after seeing Ellen Denny bring the fiery Anne Shirley to life. It’s an energetic production, always moving and you won’t even notice the 2 hours and 45 minutes pass by. In addition to Ellen Denny, Robin Craig (playing Rachel Lynde),  Alison Woolridge (Marilla Cuthbert) and Brieonna Locche (Diana Barry) are particularly magnificent.

The music is phenomenal and the story is endearing, leaving you warm inside at the end.  The set and costumes take you back in time for a night of pure magic with (or without) your children. That said, it’s ideal for children over eight-years-old.

Angel Square is a mystery set in Ottawa’s Lowertown neighbourhood in 1945. When the play begins it’s Christmas time in Angel Square, a place where Jewish, Irish and French Canadian kids meet to duke it out. 12-year-old Tommy, the main character, is on a mission to find out who struck down his best friend’s father. He knows that the answer lies somewhere in the cultural divide of Angel Square and with a group of friends, he sets out to find answers.

Angel Square is more suited for kids a little older, 11 or 12 +, as the play’s themes include some difficult concepts such as racism, growing up and love.  My 10-year-old daughter found it a bit hard to follow and some scenes even frightened her.  Adults on the other hand, and older children, will love it and find the play charming, even as it touches on those darker themes.

Mary Ellis, Robert Marinier, Kristina Watt and Bruce Spinney in Angel Square at GCTC. Photo by Andrew Alexander
A scene from Angel Square. Photo by Andrew Alexander.

Kristina Watt, who takes on many different roles in the play, shines brightly. However, she is greatly assisted by the chemistry between all four actors (Watt, Mary Ellis, Robert Marinier and Bruce Spinney). All actors are adults, but they pull off their various characters with the required innocence and rawness of the children they play.

Have fun with your kids and take a walk back in time with either of these great plays.

Anne and Gilbert, The Musical nac.ca runs until December 19 while Angel Square gctc.ca runs until December 20.