By Laureen F. Guenther Times Contributor
The musical, An L.M. Montgomery Christmas, based on stories by the author of Anne of Green Gables, opened on Rosebud’s BMO Studio Stage Dec. 1.
“There are twins and dead fathers and ministers and fun country women and teenage girls who need to learn lessons,” said director Jeany Van Meltebeke, also one of the playwrights. “It’s very full of all the things you would expect from Lucy Maud Montgomery.”
The cast and crew are Rosebud School of the Arts second-year students, with several upper-years students and graduates rounding out the cast.
Sixty-six-year-old Aunt Theodora and her teenaged niece Lucy Rose are travelling on a train in Canada at Christmastime, in close quarters with a soldier, a minister, a shop girl, a young widow with her children, a wealthy German woman and the train conductor.
“When we travel at Christmas and stressful things happen, whether you want to or not, you’re stuck with people,” Van Meltebeke said. “Sometimes courageous offerings happen, and then connection and community can happen.”
Aunt Theodora tells Lucy Rose and the others a story from her childhood, a play within the play.
“That story has a message of sacrifice and giving for Christmas,” Van Meltebeke said. “They are inspired by the story to try and do Christmas there on the train.”
Though the play is set during the First World War, the idea of strangers travelling together is still timely.
“When you have a big delay at an airport or something, it can be really stressful,” Van Meltebeke said. “When you’re travelling at Christmas and you’re suddenly stuck with these strangers, it’s easier to judge them before you know them. Then when you get to know them, and see what you have in common, you realize that they can be a kind of family to spend Christmas with.
“It’s a sweet story, it runs just 85 minutes, and it has beautiful music, so it’s one that you could bring pretty much anyone to,” she said. It’s not a children’s play, but she said any children old enough to enjoy Anne of Green Gables stories will enjoy this show.
Its timing also allows guests to see Cariboo Magi in Rosebud’s Opera House afterward.
“It’s a wonderful pairing,” Van Meltebeke said. “You come to ours at 4:3 p.m. … then you can eat dinner at the Mercantile and see Cariboo Magi. (In Cariboo Magi), you’ll have something that is even more raucous, hilarious, thought-provoking … full of heart and redemption.”
An L.M. Montgomery Christmas runs Thursdays to Saturdays, Dec. 1 to 23. Get tickets at rosebudtheatre.com or 1-800-267-7553. The $20 ticket does not include a meal.
“It’s got all the elements of a Canadian Christmas: northern lights and snow, and cold, and polite but cranky people,” Van Meltebeke said. “Do yourself the favour of coming out to Rosebud (and) giving yourself a Christmas treat. You’ll be blessed.”