The Secret Garden
by California Youth Conservatory
"Mary, Mary, quite contrary. How does your garden grow?"
The Secret Garden is a musical based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The Book and lyrics by Marsha Norman, with music by Lucy Simon. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1991 and ran for more than 700 performances.
When eleven-year-old Mary Lennox is orphaned after a Cholera outbreak, she is sent away from India to Yorkshire, England to live with her widowed Uncle Archibald, his bother Neville, and her bed-ridden cousin, Colin. The Secret Garden has a dark and enchanting theme that ends in light and hope.
CYC's production opens with Lily, the mourned wife of Archibald Crane, played by the lovely 17-year-old Meghan McKenzie. Miss McKenzie is beautifully lit and her warm Soprano defies her age. I found her ability to play a mature character next to more mature actors commendable.
Lily's widower, Archibald Craven is played by Danny Myers. Mr. Myers delivers so much emotion and heart in his performance that it leaves you almost breathless. "A Girl in the Valley" was stunningly visual, as you see Lily and other ghosts waltz behind a scrim during Craven's serenade.
10-year-old Natalie Marrewa does a fine job portraying the bold and head strong Mary Lennox. She is very convincing in "A Bit of Earth," where she pleaded to Mr. Craven for a garden of her own.
When Mary explores the garden, she meets Ben Weatherstaff (Christopher Hoolihan) and Dickon (Riley Cavanaugh). I was impressed with Mr. Hoolihan's accent, which one would mistake as his own, and young Mr. Cavanaugh possessed great stage presence and energy throughout "It's a Maze".
Tanner Tavos is incredible as Dr. Neville Craven. Both Myers and Tavos are convincing as pining men in love with the same woman, Lily. They sing of Mary's resemblance to Lily in the duet, "Lily's Eyes". It is fair to say that these two young men gave the most honest and near-Broadway caliber performances that I have seen in a youth production. I was thoroughly convinced that Mr. Tavos was a veteran actor, but later learned that he is also 17.
Also worth mentioning is Scarlett Urbano who delivers an impressive performance as the optimistic maid, Martha. She brought energy and life to "If I had a Fine White Horse".
Cameron Lee-Bellows plays a touching and credible Colin Craven, and he is a great match for the "sassy-fied" Mary. His performance throughout the show is consistent, believable, and memorable. He and Natalie Marrewa have perfect chemistry; Colin's tantrum in the second act is very realistic and very opposite of sweet. Colin does have one of his most heartwarming moments in "Come to My Garden," performed with Lily. I was especially touched when Lily puts her arms around Colin and gently kisses him on the forehead. We also see this at the end of the production with Lily behind a scrim and a sweeter Mary downstage. It is very effective and there was not a dry eye in the house.
This show is not just supported by its lead actors, but also supported by talented Dreamers and Children's Ensemble.
Director Shaun Evans does phenomenal work with all of the actors, allowing them to scratch more than just the surface of their characters, making them real and believable. Mr. Evans' sets were esthetically pleasing, and my favorite piece was a pot of dead flowers that bloomed into flowers right on stage.
This was an outstanding production that left quite an impression of a professional show with professional actors, sets, props, costumes, and lighting. The creative team did an amazing job. Lighting Designer Michael Hoffman does fantastic work from top to finish, perfectly setting the mood for each scene. Amy McDowell also deserves a mention for rounding all of the gorgeous voices in this production. A big thank you to the orchestra for not drowning out the actors vocals, which is heard too often in youth theatre. The costuming was fabulous and fit the period perfectly. I could go on and on, and I will continue to have fond memories of being lost in CYC's The Secret Garden.
Performed March 1 - 15, 2014
D. Jacqueline Young
~ Cast ~
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Director: Shaun T. Evans
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