‘Secret’ on stage

  • The house staff meets in a scene from the 'Secret Garden' at the City Auditorium on Tuesday, October 9, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Dickon Sowerby played by Ryder Fisk and Mary Lennox played by Morgan Doherty meet outside in the garden in a scene from the 'Secret Garden' at the City Auditorium on Tuesday, October 9, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Mary Lennox, played by Morgan Doherty, jumps rope in a scene of “The Secret Garden” at the Concord City Auditorium. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Mary Lennox (left) played by Morgan Doherty is comforted by Mrs. Sowerby played by Bailey Carignan in a scene from “The Secret Garden” at the Concord City Auditorium on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 10/10/2018 5:39:53 PM

A garden left unattended will wither, but one that’s well cared for will thrive. So too do people according to The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The Children’s Theater Project of the Community Players of Concord will bring the 1911 novel to life this weekend.

“I read the book this summer – can’t believe I never had – and loved it: beautiful language, character descriptions and development, visual images,” director Karen Braz said in an email.

Mary Lennox (played by Morgan Doherty) is orphaned when her parents and servants die from the cholera epidemic in India. So, she is sent to live on a moor in Yorkshire, England, with an uncle, Archibald Craven (Myles Luongo), who she’s never met.

Her uncle has experienced a loss too, that of his wife, and spends lots of time away from home to escape her memory.

So, Mary is left to the care of the manor’s servants and to entertain herself.

Maid Martha Sowerby (Ayva Mullen) tells Mary of the many hours the late Mrs. Craven used to spend in a private garden that has been locked since her death. Mary searches out the key to the garden and befriends a young gardener, Dickon (Ryder Fisk), Martha’s 12-year-old brother.

Mary also discovers she has a cousin living in the house, Colin (Gavin Johnson), who has been ill and living in a hidden bedroom. Mary tells him stories of the garden and eventually, he’s brought out to see it.

As the children play in the garden and care for it, they become more well-mannered and less sickly, and the garden itself is much improved.

This is the 23rd year of the Children’s Theatre Project directed by Braz. Each year, she alternates between musicals and straight play for the children’s show so the kids are exposed to a variety of material. Last year was a musical, The Wizard of Oz, so this version of The Secret Garden adapted by Tim Kelly will be a non-musical play.

“I chose the show because I remember seeing the Broadway musical years ago and loved the story,” Braz said. “I’m also very interested in introducing young actors to a variety of stories and genres of theatre, and this fit the bill.”

Additional material from the original book was added to Kelly’s version, too.

“I wanted to incorporate, especially, a bit more of the interactions between character, which develops/advances the story more clearly and provides more ‘meat’ for the actors,” Braz said.

The children in the performance can be ages 8 to 18, with many being in the 10 to 14 age range, Braz said. The cast has 29 children in total, plus additional help from parents and other volunteers for the backstage crew, costumers, production team, ushers and more.

“This show has representatives from almost all in that age range, almost all of them have at least some prior experience doing shows, and many have a great deal of experience,” Braz said.

The show is very dialogue heavy, as it was taken from a piece of literature, so there was a lot of memorizing for the children.

“It’s also set in 1906, in Yorkshire, England, so the language is a bit different from now, and there were accents to work on,” Braz said. “They have really excelled at taking on the challenge of recreating the style of speech, the pronunciation and cadence of Yorkshire, particularly.”

“They’ve also really excelled at understanding these characters and portraying their range of emotions,” Braz added.

She mentioned Morgan Doherty and Gavin Johnson, who play Mary and Colin, seem to enjoy the scene where they get to scream at each other.

While this is no Disney musical (Braz suggests not bringing very young children), it should be enjoyable to most everyone else.

“Please, come support these young actors and their hard work, as well as everyone who has created beautiful sets, costumes and props!” Braz said.

Showtimes will be Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Concord City Auditorium. Tickets are $15 and available at communityplayersofconcord.org or the box office. For more information, call 344-4747 or email nhdm40@comcast.net.

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