The Secret Garden
by Poway High School

This haunting musical, based on the classic book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, features one of the most beautiful scores ever written. And when you have a phenomenal group of vocalists like the one currently attending Poway High School, you’re in for a remarkable treat. Not that the cast is just a bunch of great singers. It’s a rare group of both terrific singers and actors who combined to create this extraordinary production.

The story centers on Mary Lennox, a spoiled and anti-social young girl whose plush life in India comes to a sudden end with the death of her parents and everyone she knows, as they succumb to a cholera epidemic. She is whisked away to the estate of her Uncle Archibald set amidst the lonely moors of northern England – a gloomy household filled almost entirely with people as anti-social as her. And several ghosts.

Allyson Lawton stars as Mary Lennox, and she adds tremendous personality to the role as she slowly transforms from a moody and uneasy girl into the playful Mary who embraces life and nature. She gets a lot of help in that transforming journey from those who befriend her, beginning with the lively chambermaid Martha. Abigail Frisch is fantastic as the funny, teasing Martha who also does great vocal work with her thick Yorkshire accent and her big solos culminating in the inspiring Hold On. Ryan Davidson plays Martha’s fun-loving, nature-loving brother Dickon with his exuberant Winter’s on the Wing song. Chase Kassel is a charming old gardener as Ben Weatherstaff.

Then there are the more solemn residents of the Craven household, headed by Conor Tibbs as Archibald. Conor speaks with his stiff movements and his remarkable voice filled with pain and despair. His Bit of Earth solo is terrific. And then there are the duets. Two are with his departed wife Lily, with Amanda Eldreth providing jaw-dropping operatic vocals that appear to be effortless despite the range, delivered with sublime sensitivity. Conor also shares a great duet with his envious brother Neville (Greg Katakalidis) with Lily’s Eyes. Sixth grader Tyler Ulrich is Archibald’s bedridden son Colin, even more spoiled and moody than Mary Lennox ever was, who believes he is deathly ill, and who brightens so completely when Mary gives him friendship and new hope.

The deeply talented ensemble includes Kathreen Tzathas as the cold housekeeper, Marisa Parry as a prim school headmistress who gets driven out by a wildly quite contrary Mary, Jackie Rudeen and Felix Cueva as Mary’s nurturing Indian nannies, and Jaclyn Burt and Gary Barnes as her distant parents. As a whole, they provide for beautiful and sometimes dramatic scenes – especially in the act one finale as we see them all fall ill with cholera just as their ghosts lead Mary to the door of the secret garden.

Directors Nancy Gray and Keith Heldman’s sublime production begins with Lily sitting up in the branches of her favorite, fateful tree in her garden, and then hits on every level with lovely costumes, scenery, lighting, and one of the best groups of voices you’re likely to hear.

Performs February 7 - 17, 2007.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Lily: Amanda Eldreth
Mary Lennox: Allyson Lawton
Fakir: Felix Cueva
Ayah: Jackie Rudeen
Rose: Jaclyn Burt
Captain Albert Lennox: Gary Barnes
Lieutenant Peter Wright: Chris Rossio
Lieutenant Ian Shaw: David Schreiner
Major Holmes: Jake Rollins
Claire Holmes: Kendall Sallay
Alice: Janessa Gillette
Major Shelly: Brett Siegel
Mrs. Shelly: Lauren Thompson
Archibald Craven: Conor Tibbs
Dr. Neville Craven: Greg Katakalidis
Mrs. Medlock: Kathreen Tzathas
Martha: Abigail Frisch
Dickon: Ryan Davidson
Ben: Chase Kassel
Colin: Tyler Ulrich
Jane/Nurse: Heather Hernandez
Mrs. Winthrop: Marisa Parry

Lauren Bartels
Tanner Boyack
Jonathan Burton
Rachel Cooper
Cassie Croft
Kaitlin Fischer
Emily Frisch
Sean Gellenbeck
Marquel Gerson
Amanda Gibbs
Brandon Holman
Abbey Howe
Mark Korte
Thomas Lokensgard
Brenn McWhorter
Taylor Oyer
Lindsay Pulaski
Kailee Quinn
Eric Ramirez
Matt Rossio
Allie Schmelter
Heidi Smyth
Lauren Turner
Chanell Tyce
Craig Wilson

Ballroom Dancers:
Gary Barnes
Lauren Bartels
Tanner Boyack
Jaclyn Burt
Kaitlin Fischer
Emily Frisch
Marquel Gerson
Amanda Gibbs
Janessa Gillette
Mark Korte
Brenn McWhorter
Taylor Oyer
Eric Ramirez
Jake Rollins
Chris Rossio
Matt Rossio
Kendall Sallay
David Schreiner

Director: Nancy Gray, Keith Heldman
Orchestra Conductor: Sylvester Sybilski
Set Designer: Keith Heldman
Sound Designer: Garrett Moreau, P.C.P.A.
Costumes: Robyn Wilson
Stage Manager: Brent Beavers
Lighting Designer: Keith Heldman


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