The Secret Garden dazzles

by Annie Davis

The Milton Players have done it again!  The final offering from the Milton Players in a successful and ambitious season is the musical The Secret Garden. Based on the beloved icon of children’s literature, this powerful production harnesses the magic of the original work and transports the audience.

Saturday night’s performance to a full house garnered shouts of praise after most musical numbers (and it’s almost operatic) and standing ovations. At intermission, the audience was buzzing. “This is amazing,” proclaimed a woman nearby. Those familiar with the musical adaptation, were thrilled with this production; those unfamiliar with it, were entranced.

A classic of children’s literature, a 10-year-old orphan, Mary Lenox, struggles to gain the attention of her widowed uncle and guardian. In the course of the story, she uncovers a mystery, finds friendship, and discovers herself in the locked secret garden, an obvious and Victorian metaphor, of the uncle’s Yorkshire estate.

The musical play itself relies on sung storytelling rather than action, conflict, or dramatic tension. Character development and motivation are slim. But most people already know the story. A stronger play would make for easier production, and by overcoming the weaknesses of this play, the significant talents of the Milton players shine even brighter. It is ably directed by Vickie Kirichok.

All elements of the production work well. The Herculean musical direction—all music all the time—by local musician Marilyn Whipple conducting and also at the keyboard is triumphant. She is beautifully supported by cellist Elizabeth Mahon and flutist Ray Taranto.

Most significant are the actors and their singing. This is challenging stuff, and every single one of them deserves praise. Our greatest standout is the ready-for-Broadway lead actress 13-year-old Molly Cahill as Mary Lenox. The part is also played by Gabrielle La Flamme.  The invalid boy Colin, played in this performance by 10-year-old Nora Cahill, sister of the lead, has a crystalline singing voice and enchanting personality. We loved her. The role is also played by Matthew Krauss. David Michael Daly as Archibald Craven is no stranger to local theatre, and he has a magnetic attraction, most particularly in dreamlike duet “How Could I Ever Know” with his departed wife portrayed perfectly by Claire Lukaczyn. In short, the audience cried. And Mark Estano’s significant training and experience, acting and singing, result in a perfect portrayal in the difficult role of the Yorkshire boy Dicken.

The cast takes a bow

Also of significant note are: Pat Brawley’s stern Mrs. Medlock; beautiful-voiced Athan Mantalos as Dr. Neville Craven, the bad guy; Kelly Horan’s enthusiastic Yorkshire-accented Martha; and Milton’s Michael Maholchic revealing a lovely singing voice as Mary Lenox’s father. Such talent!

The sets of The Secret Garden are minimalist–two beds, a couple of chairs and a desk, an ivy-covered wall and garden gate–and set changing is required too often. However, it all works just fine, without disruption.

Experience The Secret Garden Sunday matinees April 10 and 17 at 2 PM or evenings April 15 and 16 at 8 PM. A full-length musical production, it is suitable for families.  The Milton Players perform at the conveniently located Milton Women’s Club.

The Milton Players are in their 78th season, and subscriptions for the 79th season are on sale already. There’s nothing better than great live theatre, and it’s right here! Don’t miss the Milton Players’ production of the musical The Secret Garden.

The cast take their hats off for the music ensemble

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