Friday, October 29, 2004
Talented children star in Carlisle's production of The Secret Garden
This is the third in a series of weekly articles on the Savoyard Light Opera Company, which will perform The Secret Garden, its last show in Carlisle, from November 12 to 21 in the Corey Auditorium. Due to space constraints in the Carlisle School, the 30-year-old troupe (which began in Maynard and moved to Carlisle in 1988) is forced to seek a new theater home after this season.
Ten-year-old Katherine Doherty's gaze sweeps cautiously across the walls and doorways of Union Hall in Carlisle as singers in street clothes line up behind her, adding harmony to an eerie, haunting melody. From the look on Doherty's face, it's clear that she doesn't see the interior of a church hall at all. In her imagination, she is Mary Lennox, laying eyes for the first time on gloomy Misselthwaite Manor on the Yorkshire moors of Northern England. These are not actors surrounding her, but the ghosts of Mary's departed relatives and acquaintances, who haunt Mary, her Uncle Archibald and all who dwell in the manor.
"Kids have such vivid imaginations, while adults put up walls and block out their imaginations to protect themselves," observes Corey Jackson, director of The Secret Garden, opening on November 12 in Carlisle. "All of us need to be ten years old to be actors. We need to remember the games we played, creating worlds the way we used to all the time in our backyards."
Doherty, who lives in Dover, is one of four children in the cast of The Secret Garden, a musical adaptation of the classic novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. As Mary Lennox, Doherty is on stage in nearly every scene, and has had to memorize pages of lines and numerous songs, some with difficult harmonies.
But fortunately for Doherty, "It isn't work. She's playing," says her mother, Lauren. "She's very natural at it. She loves entertaining, and has, practically since she learned to talk."
Before meeting Doherty, Jackson admits he had some reservations about directing the show. "I knew we had a challenge to find a Mary with enough focus and intelligence to handle the role, and be ten years old," Jackson says. "Mary has to carry the show. When they interviewed me for the director's position, I told them they should have a back-up show, just in case we couldn't find a child who could handle it."
Doherty, however, came to auditions with a wealth of theater experience for her short ten years. Among other roles, she has recently played Gretl in The Sound of Music in Norwell, and Tootie in Meet Me in St. Louis in Weston. Not only could she handle the challenging music and many lines of dialogue, Jackson points out that she was the first performer "off book," with all of her lines memorized.
"It just comes to me," she says with a modest shrug. As for what she enjoys about the show so far, "I like performing for an audience. And it's really fun working with the cast, and getting to know people from different towns."
Looking for talented boys
Once Jackson had cast the role of Mary Lennox, he had to find a boy to play the role of Colin Craven, Mary's sickly cousin. "It's hard to find talented young boys in theater," he admits. "Most boys that age are just not interested."
"For Colin, you've got to find a boy whose voice hasn't changed but is old enough to tackle the role," adds Fred Frabotta, music director for the show. "The last time I did this show, the boy's voice changed just three months after the run. There's a fine line there."
Luckily, Jackson and Frabotta were able to find 11-year old Cyrus Dahmubed of Newton. Dahmubed also comes to the show with an impressive resume. In addition to playing lead roles in several local children's theaters and an ensemble role in Oliver! at Turtle Lane Theatre in Newton, Dahmubed is doing the title role in an upcoming presentation of Oliver! at Emerson Umbrella in Concord.
"I just like being on stage," says Dahmubed. "I like the work to get it, like memorizing lines and learning the score. I like being somebody I'm not." Although he enjoys nearly every aspect of his character, he admits to at least one challenge.
"The first time people see me on stage, I'm screaming. The second time they see me, I'm screaming again. And both times, I have to sing right after that. It's a little hard on the voice," he says cheerfully. Even so, he says he loves the role, and the fact that over the course of the show, Colin "realizes he isn't sick, that it's all in his head. By the end, he's physically and emotionally transformed."
The other two children in the cast, Alex Bilbo, 12, of Sudbury, and Carly Grayson, 12, of Westborough, also come to the show with impressive histories in the performing arts. The girls, who spend much of their spare time taking dance classes and voice lessons, come complete with head shots and a manager who sends them on auditions. Bilbo's resume includes playing the role of Annie three times in the musical of the same name, while Grayson has playedamong other thingsthe role of Baby Louise in the Footlight Theater's production of Gypsy in Jamaica Plain.
The girls perform in the opening of The Secret Garden, taunting Mary Lennox with the song: "Mistress Mary, Quite Contrary," and continue through the show as ghosts, or "dreamers."
"I wanted a few other children in the show to add to the dimension of the dreamers," says Jackson. "I wanted to offer the impression that people Mary's age were also dying of cholera [in India, where the show opens]."
As for how the children are doing so far, Jackson says, "They're incredible. They're so smart. They've lived up to my expectations, and then some."
Why should people come to see The Secret Garden? The children had no trouble coming up with thoughtful responses.
"This is a really interesting show, full of excitement and love," says Doherty.
"We have a great cast, there's excellent music, and I think people will see something of themselves in some of the characters," Dahmubed adds. "They're all on a journey of discovery, and we all are, too."
For more information on the Savoyard Light Opera Company and its upcoming performances of The Secret Garden, call 1-978-371-SLOC or visit their web site at savoyardlightopera.org.
© 2004 The Carlisle Mosquito