|Vincent Pugliese, Morgan James, and Ryan Parker|
Photo by Rebecca Novicki
Click here for more information on this production that runs through April 23rd.
"There are several surprises in Valley Youth Theatre’s ambitious new production of the Broadway musical The Secret Garden. ...The musical with its theme of rejuvenation is based on the famous 1911 children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett...the youth at the center of the story is an English girl, just ten years-old, of wealthy, upper-class heritage, living in turn-of-the-century India....the girl’s parents and almost everyone she ever knew, have died of cholera. The ghosts of those already departed circle around her bed as Mary Lennox (Ryan Parker) sleeps. ...those ghosts...remain with Mary throughout, commenting on the action and often used as a spiritual Greek Chorus...Mary moves across sea to her hunchback uncle’s gloomy mansion in Yorkshire, England, one that secretly harbors its own kind of sickness...and the little boy she hears crying in the night, Colin (Morgan James), ...the illusion of Mary and Colin surrounded by an older generation works surprisingly well. Much of this is in part due to Karol Cooper’s excellent costume designs, but also the fact that many of the adults are apparitions, clad in ghostly white, and lit by Bret G. Reese’s lighting design in a way that presents them in shadows, often half seen. Plus, they’re tall, and by sheer presence alone, always looking down on the age-appropriate younger characters, the appearance of everyone else being of a much older generation is nicely accomplished. There’s also the casting of the hunchback uncle, Archibald Craven, played by Isaac Doodle who convincingly portrays a sense of melancholy and grief; his brother Neville, Mark Munoz, who conveys a natural sense of authenticity way beyond his actual age; and Tatum Dial’s departed Lily, whose singing voice is literally haunting....with the voices and an accomplished twelve-piece live orchestra... the production soars. ...In truth, there’s a certain lack of joyfulness during the final act that the cast can’t quite achieve, reducing the final reunion to something less than emotionally satisfying...though the growth of red roses and the newly bloomed flowers in Lily’s garden makes the overall conclusion a handsome theatrical design...." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)
"Based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic 1911 children's novel, the musical The Secret Garden tells the moving story of how one young girl has an incredible impact on a houseful of adults in early 1900s England. Valley Youth Theatre presents a production full of beauty and emotion featuring a gifted cast, lush creative elements, and direction that features sensitive touches....the musical follows young Mary Lennox who, due to a cholera epidemic, finds herself an orphan in India. She is quickly whisked away to her Uncle Archibald Craven's huge estate in the moors of England...Through interactions and friendships with the people Mary meets at the estate, she hears about a secret hidden garden that belonged to her Aunt Lily. Mary makes it her mission to find the garden and bring it, her uncle, and her cousin back to life....Director Bobb Cooper does very good work here. This is a full length Broadway show with a large cast and numerous scenes, yet even though the cast and the majority of the crew are teenagers or younger, the show moves quickly and the actors all do a fairly good job portraying the changes and growth their characters experience. They also all have very good singing voices, and this is a show that requires some superb vocal abilities....The only fault I could find in the direction relates to the few humorous moments in Norman's script. These bits add levity to the more somber tone of the show, but this cast doesn't always quite deliver on the comedy these moments require, often rushing the lines so the laughs don't land. But that is a very small complaint for a production and a cast that is very good....Ryan Parker accurately portrays Mary at first as a self-absorbed, sour-faced girl yet we also see the curiosity and excitement she feels when she uncovers the secrets within Archie's mansion. ...as Archie, Isaac Dowdle delivers a performance full of anguish and sensitivity. ...Tatum Dial's Lily is full of love and charm and her lush, lilting voice achieves some exquisite sounds. ...Mark Muñoz's no-nonsense delivery makes for an authoritative Neville..Mary develops friendships with her maid Martha, Martha's teenage brother Dickon, and the groundskeeper Ben, and Sarah Pansing, Vincent Pugliese, and Hunter Cuison all deliver loving portrayals of these charming and humorous individuals....VYT's creative aspects are quite impressive...With a first rate cast with exceptional voices that truly allow Simon's score and Norman's lyrics and dialogue to soar, VYT's production of The Secret Garden is a rich and rewarding emotional journey.. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)