A Write Teacher(s) Spotlight: Bend in the Road

Hello Beautiful People,

When I first heard that Benjamin Endsley Klein was directing Bend in the Road at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, I knew that it was one of the shows that I had to see.

If you saw Ann, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

(If you didn’t, well, that’s a shame – you absolutely missed out.)

Now, in Bend in the Road, Benjamin Endsley seamlessly moves the story of Anne of Green Gables from the page to the stage – as the play, the transitions, the pacing was utter perfection.

L to R: KATIE GASPARINI, CJ PAWLIKOWSKI, ALISON WOODS, ANNE KANENGEISER, MAUREEN SILLIMAN, WHITNEY WINFIELD, RACHEL WEINTRAUB, and MIMI BESSETTE in BEND IN THE ROAD at NYMF Photos: Carol Rosegg

L to R: KATIE GASPARINI, CJ PAWLIKOWSKI, ALISON WOODS,
ANNE KANENGEISER, MAUREEN SILLIMAN, WHITNEY WINFIELD, RACHEL WEINTRAUB,
and MIMI BESSETTE in BEND IN THE ROAD at NYMF
Photos: Carol Rosegg

But, let me back it up a bit. For those of you who don’t know, Bend in the Road, written by Benita Scheckel and Michael Upwardis based on the classic novel Anne of Green Gables and centers on young Anne Shirley, an orphan who is mistakenly adopted by siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. Although they had hoped for a boy to help with their Avonlea farm, Anne’s joyous, intelligent, and vivacious spirit changes the lives of all those around her, including Matthew, Marilla, and the nosy town gossip Mrs. Rachel Lynde. Anne finds fast friendships at school with Diana Barry, while her rivalry with handsome classmate Gilbert Blythe changes unexpectedly as they enter adulthood.

I was absolutely delighted with this show, from the story to the cast, to the set – I nearly forgot that it was ninety-five degrees and I was sitting in a poorly air-conditioned theater.  The cast, crew, and creative team were that committed, that energetic, and that engaging. So, BRAVO to Jordan Barrow, Mimi Bessette, Brandon Essig, Kasie Gasparini, Justine Huxley, Anne Kanengeiser, Kevon Ligon, CJ Pawlikowski, Maureen Sillman, Chelsea Stavis, Martin Vidnovic, Rachel Weintraub, Whitney Winfield, and Alison Woods. But, as always, I have favorite moments…

First would be the trio of early nineteen hundred Mean Girls; led by Josie Pye, played by the flawless Kasie Gasparini, the trio of Prissy (Justine Huxley), Ruby Gillis (Chelsea Stavis) and Josie Pye add an element of playful humor coupled with the nastiness of teenagers to this story. The three work beautifully as a symbiotic trio, and I kid you not, they are reminiscent of Rachel McAdams and her clan in Mean Girls. They made my teacher brain work in overtime, as they did an expert job of portraying how mean and catty teenagers can be to one another, no matter if it’s 1901 or 2001 – teenagers can be cruel.  Their scenes alone could open an unending amount of discussion and conversation should this production ever visit schools, colleges, and/or community theaters.

I think every town has a Rachel Linde, (Maureen Silliman). There’s always a busybody, a gossip, someone who means well and yet always manages to stick his/her foot in their mouth. In Bend in the Road, Rachel is that person, and oh how she makes you laugh. It’s a beautiful thing.

I adored the Matthew Cuthbert, (Martin Vidnovic). Adored. The quiet, methodical, loving character is the undercurrent that creates a family between Anne, Marilla, and himself.  He is the thread that binds them, the constant force in their lives. For me, Matthew Cuthbert is one of the most endearing characters in the show.

ALISON WOODS as Anne Shirley and WHITNEY WINFIELD as Diana Barry in BEND IN THE ROAD at NYMF Photo by Carol Rosegg

ALISON WOODS as Anne Shirley and WHITNEY WINFIELD
as Diana Barry in BEND IN THE ROAD at NYMF
Photo by Carol Rosegg

The moments between Anne (Allison Woods) and Diana (Whitney Winfield) are absolutely flawless. Walk Like Sisters is definitely one of the best songs of this show.  It’s moving, catchy, and an absolutely beautiful duet between two friends. And this brings me to my next favorite…moment.

Allison Woods. If Anne of Green Gables ever came alive in your imagination when you poured over the pages as a youngster, she comes alive on the stage via Allison Woods.  She is Anne of Green Gables. She is charismatic, energetic, heartfelt…I could use quite a lengthy list of adjectives here.  I have found, that whether it is in film or theater, when one tries to recreate a character that has already existed within the pages of a book, well, there’s trepidation. Hesitation. Anticipation. Concern. Will he or she be able to recreate the person that came alive in the imaginations of those who dove headfirst into the book? Will they be able to capture the essence of what already exists on the page, and transfer  that into a performance?

In the case of Allison Woods, Anne of Green Gables, and Bend in the Road, the answer is a resounding YES.

Like all shows that I love, I could gush on about them for forever.  But, I’m going to stop now, and leave you with what you need to know.

It’s a story that is set in 1901, over a HUNDRED YEARS AGO, and yet, it’s absolutely fascinating to me that so much of the heart of the story still resonates with audiences today, as Bend in the Road explores themes and values that transcend time. Family. Home. Love. Friendship. These are things that are being cherished in Green Gables, are cherished now, in 2013, and will continue to be the elements in life that matter most. Bend in the Road reminds us of the intangible elements that matter most in life, the ones that money cannot buy, the things that are, and will always be, invaluable.

The next show of Bend in the Road is today, at 1pm. Then there are two more chances to see this lovely show – Saturday, July 27 at 5pm, and Sunday, July 28 at 1pm. Don’t. Miss. Out.

Live, Love, Learn,

Megan & The Write Teacher(s) 

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A Write Teacher(s) Spotlight: Bend in the Road