Secret Garden invites children and families to bring their imagination to the show
Each day the bit of green pushes farther up: a stem, a leaf, a bud, and finally—a beautiful rose. The magic of life is silently exhibited in the growth of every tree and flower.
Running through February 18th in Noorda Theatre, the theater department’s production of “The Secret Garden” invites adults and children alike to unlock the magic and healing of a special garden.
Even before the actors take stage, “The Secret Garden,” a play based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, begins to call up the use of imagination. In the foyer sits a tin filled with crayons, another filled with lime green pushpins, and a third stacked with squares of white paper. Audience members are invited to draw a flower for the secret garden. A variety of colors and shapes then begin to populate the garden boards set before the tins.
Inside the theater, the music of bird songs in spring plays while lighting that conjures up images of sunlight through trees dapples the stage. An idea of springtime and an atmosphere of nature evolve as audience members find their seats in the small, intimate, open-style Noorda Theatre.
“The Secret Garden” chronicles the tale of a family whose life has been darkened by death and sickness, but who experience rebirth through the healing powers of a secret garden. Mary Lennox, a ten-year-old orphan raised in India, comes to live with her widower uncle, Archibald Craven, when her parents both die of disease. Craven is withdrawn and morose, burdened by the untimely death of his wife. His mansion in Yorkshire, England at first seems a dismal place to Mary, but with the help of friends, and possibly a touch of magic, Mary is able to unlock a series of secrets that bring herself, her new family and a special garden to life.
A major strength of the production is a simple, but engaging invocation of the imagination. The set is fairly minimal, including a garden gate covered in vines, two bits of wall and a portion of a bedroom. Yet, with these few elements and the use of creative lighting, a world comes forth to meet the audience. One example of the creative lighting is that squares of the stage light up to show a path, a few panels at a time, mimicking the glow of candlelight as a person walks through corridors.
Other creative elements include the use of live music, such as violin and flute, to aid in characterization and create various atmospheres. Morgan Fenner, accompanied by flute music from Jordan Hall, played the character of the robin admirably. Fenner wore a brown vest with a red front and operated a small puppet bird, generating the playful character of the robin. Fenner’s engaging facial expressions and light-footedness made the robin a captivating and magical character.
Other noteworthy characters included Mary, Colin, and Dickon played by Heather Ashton, Jordan Kramer and Christian M. Richards Jolley, respectively. These three actors played the roles of the lead children, capturing the expressions, excitement, curiosity and even the tempers of childhood. Kramer was particularly impressive in his delivery of a spoiled, demanding yet lovable (and comical) invalid.
All of the characters donned various British accents, and many of them did so convincingly, such as Kaela Hernandez, who created an endearing Yorkshire servant speech to accompany her portrayal of Martha, a servant who helps in the children’s journey. Still, some of the characters did struggle to maintain their accents consistently, though none of the key leads exhibited difficulties.
Overall, the play delivered a simple, yet magical message of healing and love, as a family and a garden both bloomed and grew.
“My heart is warmed,” said student Kyle Oram after watching the play.
For tickets or information visit uvu.edu or call 801-863-7529
By Sierra Wilson
Asst Editor of the V