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The Suburbanite
  • Theater review: Strong acting found in “Secret Garden”

  • Alliance musical acted well, sung not so well.

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  • Full disclosure: I grew up watching the Agnieszka Holland’s movie version of “The Secret Garden.” My sister and I were obsessed with it.
    So, when I traveled to Alliance to see the Carnation City Players musical version, I was giddy to relive the story I had loved so much growing up.
    The show, which runs through this weekend, is pretty well done. The music is beautiful, especially the ensemble numbers.
    The story centers on Mary Lennox, a girl who is displaced from her home in India when her parents die. She is sent to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven, who lost his wife 10 years before. Their son was not supposed to live through the night, and has been bed-ridden since. Mary, who is alone most of the time, sets her sights on her aunt’s forgotten garden.   
    Dream sequences are intertwined into the Alliance musical seamlessly. To signify death, the characters pull out red handkerchiefs, which is clear and jarring.
    But for such beautiful music, it is difficult to hear some of the actors sing. And since a lot of the story is told through the songs, it is easy to get lost if you don’t know what is going to happen.
    The part of Mary is acted expertly by 12-year-old Brittne Shai Weigand. She throws a fit with the best of them. As does Tyler Kirker, who plays her cousin, Colin.
    Mary’s uncle, the supposedly introverted and distant Archibald Craven, is played as everything but by Don McCallister. There were moments I wished he would turn it down a notch.
    David Everett is fantastic as his brother, Dr. Neville Craven, and Michael Ritzert’s Dickon and Li Stebner’s Martha are phenomenal.
    In the movie, Mrs. Medlock, the intimidating head housekeeper, is played by none other than Maggie Smith. I would say that Joan M. Conlon gives her a run for her money.
    Having such young actors anchor a musical is difficult, and director Steve Parsons should get his due for the strong performances.
    “The Secret Garden” is showing at the Firehouse Theatre Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2:30. For tickets call 330-821-8712.