When you’ve spent the last four years of your relatively short life alternating between playing one of Disney’s most beloved heroines and one of Canada’s most revered literary figures, you might think it could turn a young lady’s head.
But, judging from a recent conversation, Amy Wallis is doing just fine in the modesty department with none of the arrogance that both her onstage prototypes — Anne Shirley and Belle — have sometimes displayed.
Wallis, 26, is beginning her fourth season as the title character in that best known of all Canadian musicals, Anne of Green Gables. What makes this time around even more special for her is that the show is being performed at the Elgin Theatre, courtesy of Dancap Productions.
“I’m incredibly excited to be appearing in the city that I hope to build a career in,” says Wallis. “I really want to do well here.”
The chances are that she will. The reviews from her first three summers as Anne have all been glowing — the same kind of response in her native Vancouver, where she’s starred for the past four Christmases in the Arts Club Theatre’s production of Beauty and the Beast.
“Mom and dad didn’t want me to go into theatre at all,” she laughs.
Wallis’s parents Valerie Easton and Ray Wallis are both former actors. Now, Easton is a noted choreographer while Wallis has a career in financial planning.
“They tried to get me interested in sports, but all I wanted to do was perform. I would force my parents to watch me put on these long, involved plays I had created when I was only four. I was always running around doing numbers from Cats and driving them crazy.”
By this point, Wallis’s father had quit show business “cold turkey,” in his daughter’s words, and was enjoying working in the financial sector.
“Dad would try to get me interested in the things he was doing,” Wallis confesses, “and I would just stare at him with drool coming down from my mouth. I was such a Broadway baby!”
But the Wallis family still held the line, making sure Amy would have something approaching a normal existence. “I got very involved in high school drama,” shares Wallis, “and so I asked my mother if I could have an agent. She said `no.’ It was okay if went to dance classes and acted in community theatre, but she wanted me to have a real life.”
Eventually she spent a few years at York University, but dropped out, feeling that “I was ready and I knew what I wanted.”
After a year on a cruise ship (“just so I could see the world”), she wound up in her old hometown and got her first professional job as Anybodys in the Arts Club Theatre production of West Side Story.
Since then, she’s kept busy across the country in various shows, but there’s no doubt in her mind that the cherry on the sundae has been playing Anne Shirley.
“I flew out to Toronto to audition for it,” she remembers, “and I had no idea how I did at first. I wanted the part so badly! I had read the books as a little girl and the first song I ever sang at a concert was `Gee, I'm Glad I'm No One Else But Me.'”
See the show
Anne of Green Gables – The Musical runs now until May 24. Tickets are $25 to $85; family four-pack from $139. To order tickets, call 416-644-3665 or visit www.dancaptickets.com.