The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 19, 2004


The Secret Garden
Judging by the rapt faces of children (and adults) in the audience, the occasional surreptitious wiping of tears from those faces and the obvious message conveyed by standing ovations for all three performances last weekend, the Savoyard Light Opera Company has outdone themselves with this year's musical The Secret Garden. The group will present its final three performances this weekend in the Corey Auditorium at the Carlisle School.

The Secret Garden, based on the classic children's book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, tells the story of Mary Lennox, a young girl living in India in 1906, who loses her parents and everyone she knows to a cholera epidemic. She is sent to live with her uncle Archibald Craven, a hunchback, in gloomy Misselthwaite Manor on the moors of Yorkshire, England. Left to her own devices, Mary wanders through the manor and its grounds, often haunted by the spirits and memories of her departed parents and friends. Uncle Archibald has ghosts of his own, specifically that of his departed wife, Lily, who died ten years earlier after the birth of their son, Colin.

"Does everyone who dies become a ghost?" Mary asks her uncle during one of their early encounters.

"They're only ghosts if someone alive is holding onto them," he responds grimly. This reflects a constant theme of the story, as benevolent spirits (called "dreamers") in the haunted manor endeavor to help their mourning loved ones make peace with loss and death to make way for hope and healing. This task is helped along by a few kind-hearted Yorkshire locals, most specifically Martha, the cheery Yorkshire maid, and her brother, the mystical Dickon. There are drawbacks along the way, including the machinations of Dr. Neville Craven, Archie's bitter younger brother, who keeps the sickly young Colin confined to his bed and is determined to send Mary away to boarding school.

But after Mary finds the walled-in, locked-up secret garden that once belonged to her Aunt Lily, the healing truly begins. With the help of her friends, Mary "wakes up" the slumbering garden, releasing its life and magic to make Colin well, healing those who are in mourning, and allowing the dreamers to bid their tender good-byes.

A hit on Broadway

As anyone who has read the book will attest, the story is a timeless masterpiece; and as for the musical version, composer Lucy Simon (Carly's sister) and lyricist Marsha Norman have done a magnificent job of translating the story into music and onto the stage. Opening on Broadway in 1991, starring Mandy Patinkin as the brooding Archibald Craven, the musical was a hit, running for 709 performances.

As for our local version of The Secret Garden, with stage direction by Corey Jackson and musical direction by Fred Frabotta, the actors, musicians and crew have created a product of which to be proud. Naturally, the greatest responsibility for the success of the show rests on the small shoulders of its Mary, in this case, ten year old Katherine Doherty of Dover. Doherty has proven herself to be up to the challenge, carrying the show with her true, sweet voice, acting talents and extraordinary stage presence. During all three performances last weekend, it was her appearance for the curtain call that precipitated each well-deserved standing ovation.

Professionalism throughout

The professionalism of this cast is evident from the lead players down to the chorus of dreamers. Kim Bolling of Hollis, New Hampshire and Christopher Porth of Acton provide breathtaking vocals in their roles as Lily and Archie; Lonnie Powell of Natick is impressive as Dr. Craven (his duet "Lily's Eyes" with Porth is a show-stopper), and lighter tunes performed admirably by Jessica Theriault of Littleton as Martha and Jake Aaron of Newton as Dickon inspire hope and smiles. Even those performers who drop in with short solo lines and reprises have talent that makes their small roles shine.

As always, the SLOC sets and costumes are magnificent, the full orchestra is outstanding, and the lighting superb. If this is to be the last show performed by SLOC in Carlisle (see accompanying story, on page 9), it has been a superb farewell gift. Whether or not the Savoyard Light Opera Company returns to Carlisle next year, The Secret Garden is a treat that shouldn't be missed.

The final performances of The Secret Garden will be this Friday and Saturday, November 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, November 21 at 2 p.m., at the Corey Auditorium at the Carlisle School. Ticket prices $20 for adults, $18 for seniors & students and $15 for children (12 and under). For tickets, call 1-978-371-SLOC (7562) or visit the web site at

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito