Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Secret Garden"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2004 by Tony Annicone

"The Secret Garden"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Savoyard Light Opera Company's current show is the Tony Award-winning musical, "The Secret Garden". It opened on Broadway on April 25, 1991 and ran for 709 performances. The show is based on the 1911 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett and tells the story of Mary Lennox, a lonely little girl who must leave her home in India after being orphaned by a cholera epidemic. She is sent to England to live with her uncle Archibald, a hunchback, who is still haunted by his deceased wife, Lily, who died ten years earlier in childbirth. Over the years he has become more eccentric and isolated from reality over the condition of his supposedly, crippled, bedridden son, Colin. Mary's discovery of Lily's cherished garden changes their lives forever. Mrs. Burnett's belief in spiritualism is carried through in this version with her use of the ghosts leading their friends and family to a better life. Topnotch direction is supplied by 27 year old Corey Jackson in only his second time directing, with excellent music direction by Fred Frabotta and his 19 piece orchestra and wonderful choreography by Ellen Peterson. 9 year old Katherine Doherty as Mary Lennox, a tremendously talented child with a sensational voice, leads her 25 castmates in a triumphant musical achievement, leading to a very well deserved standing ovation at the curtain call by many misty eyed appreciative audience members. Kudos to everyone who makes this show one of the must see shows of this season.

Corey tackles this huge gothic type musical superbly. He directs and blocks his cast so well that the audience obtains the greatest pleasure from them in the comic and dramatic moments in the show. Corey's eye for detail is also seen in the movement of his set pieces by the actors so the scenes flow smoothly from one to another. Fred not only conducts the outstanding 19 piece orchestra who volunteer their services for the show only getting paid $12 per performance but also taught the intricate melodies and harmonies to the cast, obtaining the highest results possible. The movement and dancing is supplied by Ellen who teaches dance in Boston. The gorgeous garden set and the 4 moveable flats for the mansion and garden scene were designed by Brian Harris while the numerous costumes were designed by Sandra Bourdeau as well as construced by Sandra and her crew. Lighting is by Scott Henderson and the sound by Bill Lopoulos. Congrats to all who worked on the show to make it a huge success.

Katherine Doherty is amazing in this huge role. Her acting and singing talent are unbelievable and she shines in all her scenes and songs. Some of her solo numbers include "I Heard Someone Crying" where she wanders through the mansion and finds Colin, and "The Girl I Mean To Be" where she dreams about how wonderful her life will be after she discovers the secret garden as well as a group song called "Come Spirit, Come Charm" which she learned from the Fakir and Ayah in India. Katherine is definitely someone to keep an eye on in future productions because of her unlimited talent. Brava. Christopher Porth plays Archibald Craven. His strong tenor voice sells his songs including "A Bit of Earth" when he realizes Mary likes gardens like his wife, Lily, "Race You to the Top of the Morning" where he reads a story about a dragon to Colin trying to will him to get well and run with him, and "Where in the World" where he contemplates suicide but Lily's ghost rescues him by bringing him back home to her garden. One of the most gorgeous numbers in the show is the duet with his brother called "Lily's Eyes" where both of them realize Mary has Lily's eyes and the audience finds out his brother was also in love with Lily. The most moving scene in the show is when Archibald welcomes Mary into his family at last because she has brought Colin, his crippled son to life again. Colin is well played by Cyrus Paul Dahmubed. He and Katherine have great chemistry in their argument scenes and in their eventual friendship scenes, too,bringing some comic moments to the boy's gloomy bedroom. His boy soprano voice is first heard in "Round-Shouldered Man" where he sings about his father telling him all these stories while he has been confined to his bed and in the second act he dreams about his mother in the touching duet "Come to My Garden" where he decides to go outside with Mary and recovery from his illness. Kim Bolling who has a magnificent soprano voice plays Lily. She moves the crowd with her wonderful acting ability as this young woman who died before her time. Kim sings beautiful duets including "A Girl in the Valley" with Archie after their first meeting, the gorgeous "How Could I Ever Know" where she saves Archie's life in Paris and the wonderful, poignant, "Come To My Garden" with Colin. Kim breathes life into this ghostly creature in wanders in and out of the scenes bringing happiness to the dreary and mysterious mansion.

The comic relief in this Gothic Dickensonian tale are the characters of sister and brother, Martha and Dickon. Their Welsh accents are fantastic. Jessica Theriault is excellent as the sassy but not well educated maid who is assigned to take care of Mary. Her comic delivery is wonderful as are her two numbers called "If I Had a White Horse" where to tries to cheer Mary up by persuading her to go outside to play with the jump rope Martha has given her and "Hold On" where she tries to inspire Mary to keep on helping Colin to recover by staying in the house. Jake Aaron, a student at Newton North High School, charms Mary as Dickon who has magical abilities of being able to talk to nature especially the robin who lives in the secret garden. His powerful voice sells "Winter's on the Wing" and his duet with Mary called "Wick" where he teaches her how to make things grow. Craig Howard plays Ben, the cantankerous gardener whom Lily hired many years ago finally brings the secret garden's roses back to life, proving his faithfulness to his dead mistress' son. He turns warmer to Mary as soon as he finds out she is helping the neglected Colin regain his health. Craig uses his powerful voice in "It's a Maze. The villains of this piece are Dr. Neville Craven and Mrs. Medlock played by Lonnie Powell and Laura Gouillart. Lonnie gives a strong portrayal as this bitter man who feels trapped inside a house he feels rightfully be his as well as caring for a boy no one wants. His fabulous voice is heard in the "Lily's Eyes" with Archie, "Quartet" with Archie, Lily and Rose where he and Rose try to convince their siblings not to marry each other and in "Disappear" where he wants to be rid of Mary to have the house return to its dismal former state. Laura is scary as the overbearing housekeeper who wants Mary to behave properly at all times. Mary's parents, Albert and Rose Lennox are played by Tedford Armistead and Catherine Lee. He is the more caring parent while she is only interested in her parties. Both of them have strong voices and they do a wonderful job as the ghosts who wander around the mansion helping Mary with her transition to her new home. The people, Mary learned her spells and mysticism from in India are Ayah, her nurse and the Fakir, well played by Nectaria Kordan and Jay Dzigas. Their ghostly presence helps Mary overcome the obstacles thrown in her way. The other talented cast members include the adults: David Kehs, Keith Daniel, Michael Lague, Autumn deSisto, Jacque Wilson, Larry Millner, Patricia McDonald, Patti Lopoulos, Bethany Aiken, Rollin Jeglum, Julie Kingman and the children: Alexandra Bilbo and Carly Grayson. The Savoyard Light Opera Company has spent the past 17 years in Carlisle, MA and are now looking for a new home because the school is putting them out of the Corey Auditorium. If this show is any caliber of this group's past endeavors then it is a darn shame. It is a hidden gem with multitalented perfomers that needs a space to perform in. So for an absolutely fabulous production be sure to catch this rendition of "The Secret Garden". You definitely won't be disappointed. Tell them Tony sent you and encourage this Carlisle school to renew their lease so everyone can enjoy more outstanding shows from this theater group in the future.

"The Secret Garden" (12 November - 21 December)
THE SAVOYARD LIGHT OPERA COMPANY
Corey Auditorium, Church Street, CARLISLE MA
1 (978) 371-SLOC (7562)

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