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UPDATED: No Anne of Green Gables - The Musical in 2021 Charlottetown Festival

Steve Bellamy, left, CEO of the Confederation Centre of the Arts, and Adam Brazier, artistic director of the Charlottetown Festival, display posters for the three shows that will be featured on stage in the Homburg Theatre. The shows are, from left, Between Breaths, Dear Rita and Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story.
Steve Bellamy, left, CEO of the Confederation Centre of the Arts, and Adam Brazier, artistic director of the Charlottetown Festival, display posters for the three shows that will be featured in the Mainstage Theatre. The shows are, from left, Between Breaths, Dear Rita and Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story. - Dave Stewart
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Anne of Green Gables – The Musical will not be part of the Charlottetown Festival for the first time in its history.

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s story about the red-headed orphan that makes P.E.I. her home has anchored the festival since the Confederation Centre of the Arts opened in 1965. This year, organizers say, it was not possible to mount the production.

“There was nothing we could do,’’ said Adam Brazier, artistic director of the festival, noting public health restrictions mean the centre can only fill 300 of the 1,100 seats in the Mainstage Theatre.

Similar news was revealed at The Guild’s theatre across the street Wednesday, where organizers of its summer festival lineup did not include the musical Anne and Gilbert about Anne Shirley’s later years.

Last summer, the pandemic forced the Confederation Centre to cancel its entire Charlottetown Festival while The Guild opted for a pared down version of its musical, offering the songs of Anne and Gilbert.

The Confederation Centre unveiled its 2021 lineup Thursday on its YouTube and Facebook pages, and its marquee show was noticeably absent.

Brazier said not many tourists are expected to visit P.E.I. from outside Atlantic Canada, and the centre needs a minimum audience of 550 for Anne just to break even.

“People in the bubble don’t buy tickets to Anne and haven’t for a long time,’’ the artistic director said, noting that the centre sells an average of 1,000 tickets to Anne per season to those who live in P.E.I. “But, it’s been playing for 55 years, so of course (those numbers make sense).’’

Steve Bellamy, CEO of the centre, said another reason they can’t show Anne this year is that there can be up to 28 cast members. The production is simply too big to put on stage when the centre is working within pandemic restrictions.

And, putting on a small version of the classic story isn’t possible. The centre is contractually bound to play the full version of the production.

So, Brazier and his team moved forward with a plan to design a program for an Atlantic Canadian audience, choosing to tell three Atlantic stories.


Between Breaths, inspired by a true story of a Newfoundland and Labrador man who saved more than 500 whales trapped in fishing nets, will be one of the Charlottetown Festival mainstage shows this summer. - contributed
Between Breaths, inspired by a true story of a Newfoundland and Labrador man who saved more than 500 whales trapped in fishing nets, will be one of the Charlottetown Festival mainstage shows this summer. - contributed

The festival opens with Between Breaths, a true story about a Newfoundland and Labrador man who helped save 500 whales. Featuring a live score composed by The Once, the show is presented by Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland and opens June 3.

Dear Rita then begins its run on June 29. This show celebrates the life and songs of Cape Breton icon Rita MacNeil. Cape Breton’s Lindsay Kyte wrote the script while P.E.I.’s Mike Ross will handle the music direction and arrangements.


Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, starring Ben Caplan, will be one of three mainstage shows at the 2021 Charlottetown Festival. - contributed
Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, starring Ben Caplan, will be one of three mainstage shows at the 2021 Charlottetown Festival. - contributed

Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story follows with a run that begins Aug. 12. Presented by Nova Scotia’s 2b Theatre Company, it tells the true story of two Romanian refugees meeting at Halifax’s Pier 21 as they await entry into Canada. It stars Ben Caplan.

In years past, the mainstage shows at the festival have run concurrently. However, this year the three main productions will run separately with about a week between the end of one show and the launch of the next one.

This is in case a problem with the pandemic arises, such as a circuit breaker. If that were to happen it would only affect one show rather than the entire festival.

Brazier said while a maximum seating capacity of 300 meant the centre had to focus on smaller shows, it also turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“It narrowed the vision of what we could do,’’ Brazier said. “But, obstacles force us to be creative and that’s where we thrive. Giving ourselves that (Atlantic) theme really helped because it allowed us to go into the cannon of other Atlantic provinces to see what work is there. And we’re lucky we live in a province with some of the best theatre companies and most creative theatrical minds in the country.’’

All three shows will be 80 to 90 minutes in length with no intermission and all will start at 8 p.m. The lack of intermissions is intentional as public health rules mean the centre can’t allow people to mingle in the lobby.

The concession stand will not be open. Instead, people will be served food and beverages at their seats based on online orders made in advance.

Bellamy said an operational plan is in place, and staff will be on hand to ensure physical distancing is maintained at the box office, in lineups for the shows, inside the Homburg Theatre and exiting after the shows.

The festival will also mark the return of the Confederation Centre Young Company, which will offer up The Rising. The show, which begins July 9 in the outdoor amphitheatre, explores protest music and moments in time where society stood up for civil and judicial rights.

As for the future, Bellamy said he can assure people that the festival’s most historic musical will return when the time is right. He just doesn’t know when.

“The level of uncertainty (with the pandemic) is still very high,’’ he said. “She’s a part of history here. She will be back on stage at some point but we’re going to have some fun in the meantime.’’

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What’s playing
Following is the 2021 Charlottetown Festival lineup:

Between Breaths, June 3-19: Inspired by a true story, it sails through the journey of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Jon Lien, who spent his life’s work saving whales trapped in fishing nets.

He rescued more than 500 whales, but the biggest fight came late in life as dementia threatened his body and mind. Featuring a live score composed by The Once, this show is presented by Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland.

Dear Rita, June 29 to Aug. 6. This show celebrates the life and songs of Cape Breton’s Rita MacNeil. Woven around a script from Cape Breton’s Lindsay Kyte and music direction and arranging by P.E.I.’s Mike Ross, this cabaret musical features an ensemble of actors accompanied by a band.

Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, Aug. 12-Sept. 4: Presented by Nova Scotia’s 2b Theatre Company, the musical tells the true story of two Romanian refugees meeting at Halifax’s Pier 21 as they await entry into Canada. Starring Ben Caplan, it explores how to love and find a shared humanity after the horrors of war.

• Young Company presents The Rising, July 9-Aug. 21: This show explores protest music and moments in time where society stood up for civil and judicial rights. It is presented in the centre’s outdoor amphitheatre.

• Need to know: Theatre capacity is 300, there is no intermission for any shows and concessions are to be ordered online in advance. Orders will be delivered to people in their seat. Mask-wearing and social distancing will remain mandatory throughout the complex.

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