Turtle Lane Playhouse's closing show of their season is the Tony Award winning musical, "The Secret Garden". 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 the ghosts leading their friends and family to a better life. Topnotch direction by Michelle Aguillon, musical direction by Wayne Ward and choreography by Julie Silverman, make this poignant musical tale into a triumphant evening of entertainment for people of all ages. Blest with a talented to cast to work with, makes this a must see show of this season.
Michelle's expert direction and blocking, keeps the show moving smoothly with each scene flowing into the next. A CD of slides of different settings adds a lot of color to the show. A scrim is used for this purpose and both sides of the stage are storybook sets which open to show Mary and Colin's bedrooms. Wayne obtains a fantastic vocal sound from his cast with glorious and astounding voices as well as a wonderful orchestra, too. Julie does a lovely job with the grand waltz scenes and the "Come Spirit, Come Charm" scene. The splendid costumes are by Richard Itczak. This talented cast is led by Lexi Ryan, a third grade student, who learned a massive amount of dialogue and she captures the petulant behavior perfectly as well as her eventual warming into a better person. Lexi is a hoot in the two scenes where Mary yells at Colin about hating him and his not having a hump on his back as well as in the tantrum scene when she casts her spell on Neville, Mrs. Medlock and the horrible, teacher, Mrs. Winthrop. She sings in several songs and her lovely voice is heard in her solo numbers "Someone is Crying" where she wanders through the mansion and finds Colin, and "The Girl I Mean To Be" where she imagines what the garden will be like and "Letter Song" where she writes to Archie to have him return home from Paris. ( Hannah Forsley plays Mary at alternating shows.) James Fitzpatrick is terrific as Archibald Craven. He magnificent tenor voice fills the theatre in "A Bit of Earth" where he realizes Mary likes the garden just like his wife, Lily did, "Race You to the Top of the Morning" where he reads a story to Colin, willing him to get well and run with him and "Where in the World" where he contemplates never returning home again. James also has two gorgeous duets, one with his brother, Neville, called "Lily's Eyes" where both of them admit having loved Lily and both realize Mary has Lily's eyes and the other with Lily called "How Could I Ever Know". There are many poignant moments throughout the show but one of the most touching ones comes when Archie sees his son cured and decides to keep Mary with him after finally seeing the miracle of the secret garden. Lily, the ghostly wife who died before her time, is played beautifully by Diana Doyle. She has a fabulous soprano voice which heard in "A Girl in the Valley" with Archibald, The Quartet with Archie, Neville and Rose and the electrifying, "Come to My Garden" with Colin singing in counterpoint with. The harmonies really soar in these numbers. Diana's character brings life to the dreary and mysterious house as this kindhearted spirit. (Elizabeth Robinson plays Lily at alternating shows.) Blond haired seventh grader Cameron VanderWerf plays Colin, the supposed crippled boy with a huge temper. His tantrum scenes are wonderfully played as he yells at Medlock, Martha and Betsy, the maids and Mary. Cameron's beautiful boy soprano voice is heard in his first song called "Round-Shouldered Man" where he sings about the stories he has heard while being confined to his bed and again in the astounding duet "Come to My Garden" with his mother, Lily who persuades him to visit the garden to regain his health. (Benjamin Hirsch plays Colin at alternating shows.)
The comic characters in this Gothic tale are the characters of Martha, Dickon and Ben. Michelle Mount plays the sassy but uneducated maid who is assigned to take care of Mary. Her brogue and comic delivery are wonderful as are her two numbers called "If I Had a White Horse" where she tries to cheer Mary up by telling her to go outside and play with a jump rope Martha had given her and "Hold On" where she inspires Mary to keep on helping Colin by staying in the house and write Archie a letter to keep Mary in the house. Gary Ryan is Dickon, Martha's brother, who is able to communicate with nature with his magical abilities and he charms Mary out of her doldrums. He uses his tenor voice in "Winter's on the Way" and "Wick" where he teaches her how to make flowers grow. Michelle and Gary sing "Come Spirit, Come Charm" with Lexi when they give Colin the courage to stand up from his wheelchair at last. Ben, Lily's faithful gardener is played by James Tallach. He is a hoot as this curmudgeon who refuses to put up with Mary's bad behavior when he first meets her. James has some funny one liners in the show and he makes them all hit paydirt. He gets to show off his voice with Lexi in "It's a Maze" when he describes the garden to her. The two villains of this piece are Dr. Neville Craven and Mrs. Medlock played by Michael Goodwin and Sara Jones. Michael plays this bitter man who feels trapped inside a house that he feels should rightfully be his as well as having to care for a boy no one wants. He shows off his strong baritone voice in "Lily's Eyes" with Archie, "Quartet" with Archie, Lily and Rose and "Disappear" where he wants to be rid of Mary to have the house return to its dismal state. Sara is wonderful as this Dickens type of housekeeper who wants everyone to obey her every order. Mary's parents, Albert and Rose Lennox are played by Larry Seiler and Anne Velthouse. He is the more caring parent while she is only interested in parties. Both of them have topnotch voices as do the ghostly chorus members from India as they wander about the house, trying to help Mary make the transition to her new home. The person Mary learned her spells and mysticism from in India is Ayah played by Tracy Nygard. She uses her wonderful voice singing with the chorus and singing the Indian version of "Come Spirit, Come Charm". Kudos to everyone who make this a show to be very proud of. So for a look back at one of the best selling books of all time which has been turned into a dynamite musical, be sure to catch this sparkling rendition of "The Secret Garden". Tell them Tony sent you