When the curtain rises on the Payson High School Drama Department's production of "Anne of Green Gables" beginning Thursday evening, it will seem like a visit with an old friend for many in the audience.
The beloved and heartwarming story of an orphan girl who comes to live on a Canadian farm with a family who expected a boy, has been a favorite for many years.
"It was Lucy Maude Montgomery's first novel, and there were six sequels," said PHS drama assistant Kathy Siler. "Then it was made into an extremely popular PBS movie."
The redheaded Anne Shirley is a vivacious and imaginative girl who needs all the mettle she can muster to cope with a situation where the family who takes her in wanted and needed a boy to help out with the chores on their farm near the town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island.
"She's always getting herself into predicaments," Siler said. "On the first day of Sunday school, she makes the mistake of showing up all the girls in her class by knowing the answer to every question. Her hair is extremely red and that attracts a lot of unwanted attention. So she tries to dye it black and instead she turns it green."
In the process of going through these and a host of other trials and conflicts, Anne perseveres and ultimately prevails, becoming a star student and winning a scholarship to the prestigious academy in nearby Charlottestown.
"It's wholesome family entertainment," Siler said. "It's most appropriate for all ages.
"'Anne of Green Gables' is a great opportunity to expose the entire family to a live theater experience. We have movies, of course, but live theater is something else again."
Junior Natalie Turney plays Anne, with senior Nick Sanders and sophomore Sam Strothman cast as Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, the farm couple who decides to give her a chance to prove herself.
A cast of 26 includes seven students who are playing two parts. Those double-cast are Randy Perham, Nicole Lee Neff, Jason Knoell, Cassandra Miles, Andrew Steedman, Ashley Eckstein and Billy Chester.
Curtain is 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, with a Friday afternoon matinee beginning at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $3 for adults, $2 for students and seniors, $1 for Renaissance cardholders, and free for thespians.
The PHS Drama Department has also begun work on this year's musical, "Fiddler on the Roof," scheduled to open in April.