This is an ambitious project taken on by Jessa Lormand inspired by a childhood attachment to the story.
The premise of the story is about a young British girl, Mary Lennox, living in India, whose military based parents die during a cholera epidemic. The sole survivor of the village she is brought to live with one of her only two remaining relatives – Archibald Craven, a reclusive hunchback still grieving ten years after the death of his beloved wife, Lily, a death brought on during the birth of his only child, Colin. Everyone is so anxious about Colin's frail health that they have, foolishly, but with good intentions, hidden him away until he develops rickets. It is only when Mary comes to the manor and befriends the boy, stealthily bringing him out into the fresh air and the secret garden which Mary has rediscovered, that Colin begins to recover.
The book presented the garden with its fresh air and breezes as an analogy for the Holy Spirit. However, later versions of the story, including the movies released in 1987 and 1993, and this musical, point out the spiritual vacuum in which these children were raised. Both neglected by their parents – Mary's out of selfishness and Colin's out of fear – they seek to fill that vacuum with the misplaced and misinterpreted mythology and childish mimickery of the Indian dances which Mary remembered seeing performed when she was in India. Without appropriate loving adult guidance the children revert to made up pagan rituials, instead of the Christian faith to which they were born, for solace.
It is not until the proper child-parent relationship is healed that the garden's newly refurbished beauty is or can be celebrated.
Both the story and the music are challenging and often dissonant. But our community players and McNeese students meet up to this demanding production. Archibald is performed by Tyler Brumback who we saw recently in McNeese's Kiss me Kate as Fred/Petruchio. Archibald's brother, Neville, is well done by Timothy Smith. Lily, the deceased mother of Colin is played by Amy Phillips. Martha, the maid, who is the only optimist in the crowd, is sung by Lara Connally, also recently from Kiss me Kate as Lois/Bianca. Dickon, Martha's brother and Mary's first friend at the manor house is Timothy Cural. Clay Corley dances as the robin who leads Mary to the garden. Heather Partin, veteran of many productions at both McNeese and Lake Charles Little Theatre, as well as the traditional Mistress of the Community Band concerts, plays Mrs. Medlock, the housekeeper. Seth Trahan is the comic relief groundskeeper whose Irish wisdoms brighten the stage. And the adult Kaitlyn Colby, petite and charming, is inexhaustible as the nine year old Mary Lennox. There are over a dozen other players who fill out the cast of ghosts and dancers and guests in flashback of the manor. But I have to mention that our own son, Louis, plays Lt. Wright, one of the first on the scene at the cholera stricken household.
The cast brings all the youthful enthusiasm and energy needed for this difficult musical and, as you can see, injected an infectious enthusiasm into their coming together as a tightly knit cast as well.
Not for younger teens as it is a long musical and deals with a lot of serious content, including death, ghosts that haunt the mansion, a brother who coveted his brother's wife, pagan rituals and neglected children.
BE SURE TO GET YOUR TICKETS HERE AS THE RUN IS VERY VERY SHORT: Tickets for Secret Garden