Friday April 25th 2014

“The Secret Garden”

Highly Recommended***** Magical moments in Theater! Yes, there are some theatrical experiences that are magical, and right now, the current production of “The Secret Garden” presented by Light Opera Works, is one of those special musical productions. Under the care-taking direction and choreography of Stacey Flaster, who continues to bring new clarity to old plays, this haunting musical ( almost operetta like), with music by Lucy Simon and book and lyrics by Marsha Norman is a wonderful experience for the eye and the ear. Based on the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, “The Secret Garden” is the story of a ten year old girl, Mary Lennox ( played to perfection by Sophie Thatcher, a newcomer to our area stages who has all the style and grace of a seasoned performer and a voice to match- remember this name as I am sure it will be one we will see often), who becomes an orphan and is sent from India to reside with her uncle Archie ( deftly handled by Nicholas Foster) in England.Archie has become a loner of sorts after his wife died during childbirth to his crippled son,Colin ( nicely played by Matthew Schroeder). Archie continues to leave his home and the memories that it brings him and allows the caretakers to tend to everyday affairs.Colin is left to Dr.Neville Craven ,Archie’s brother( William Travis Taylor, who also has a powerful voice) who would inherit this estate if Colin were not to survive.

This is a beautiful story with ghosts telling the story and some great characters that make Mary’s life a little more magical. Martha, the housemaid ( brilliantly played by Maggie Portman, who  shows the extent of her talents as she takes on characters roles along with her leading lady roles) and her brother Dickon (  Steve Peebles truly handles this role with the right touch) are people who feel that all is not as black as it seems. The garden itself was Lily’s pride and joy and since her death, it has been locked up, away from the eyes of Archie and his son. Lily, an enchanting ghost ( Brianna Borger’s voice is strong and resonant for this hauntingly beautiful music) and when the spirit of the garden is released by Mary entering and tending it along with Dickon and Ben (Jerry M. Miller), so is the spirit of the love that this estate once enjoyed.

Light Opera Works does a stellar job with its large scale musicals using a full orchestra in the marvelous Cahn Auditorium located on the campus of Northwestern University. Roger L. Bingaman brings this hauntingly beautiful music to life as he conducts this orchestra and the voices that Flaster has assembled fill the theater with the richness and tone of the music and lyrics in this sterling piece. Adam L.Veness has created a simple set that is rich with creativity and the ghosts and dreamers move the set pieces about allowing for smooth transitions of the scenes. There were some amazing pieces that were flown from above ( flown means that the raise and lower) and Andrew Meyers’ lighting adds to the dreaminess of the scenes. The costumes by Darcy Elora Hofer are as stunning as any Broadway type show to come into town and the ensemble players are up to the highest of standards:Barbara Clear,Maggie Clennon Reberg,Erin Thomas Lobo,Phil Higgins,Kristin O’Connell,Patrick Byrnes,Rob Riddle,Peter Oyloe,Harmony France,Jon Landvick,Maggie Clennon Reberg,Daniel Spagnuolo,Jennifer T.Grubb,Christen Boulette,Loren J. Connel,Kirsten Lendyke and Amy Orman- great job!

In fact, this is one of the slickest productions I have seen of this powerful musical that deals with love and caring and I urge you to find a way in your busy time schedule to fit this one in. The run for “The Secret Garden” is short:

Tuesday,12/27 and Wednesday, 12/28 at 2 p.m.

Thursday 12/29 at 8 p.m.

Friday 12/30 at 8 p.m.

Saturday 12/31 at 8 p.m.

New Year’s Day at 2 p.m.

Tickets range from $48 main floor and $32 balcony ( slightly higher for New Year’s Eve

To order yours call 847-920-5360 or visit www.LightOperaWorks.com

Cahn Auditorium  is located at 600 Emerson Street ( at Sheridan Road) in Evanston one block north of the public parking lot on Chicago Avenue

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