Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 10, 2010

The Secret Garden

Opera House Players, Broad Brook, CT
through May 23, 2010
by Shera Cohen

While in its infancy as a theatre group, the Opera House Players' production of "The Secret Garden" can easily hold a proverbial candle to professional productions. One would not expect much upon entering this old venue. It is dark, the seats need reupholstering, and the actors stand outside (no matter what the weather) as there is no backstage. Pity the place, but not the performances.

Based on the classic children's novel, is the story of Mary Lennox, orphaned at age 10, about to live in England with a stranger, her Uncle Archibald. In this place is mystery and mysticism, accentuated by an interweaving story of Mary's roots in India and ghosts of the cholera epidemic. The two places and their characters never physically touch, yet come so close, as the plot is revealed. Director Sharon FitzHenry's placement and movement of her 20 actors is thoughtful and extraordinary.

Hollis Long portrays Mary whose bravado hides her sadness. Mary seeks friendship, love, and a home without ever admitting it. Growth in a character is difficult for any adult actor, let along a youngster like Long. Perhaps cliché, but Long is at the helm of a dream cast. Carl Calhoun's (Archibald) exquisite tenor voice, especially when coupled with that of Keith Johnson's (his brother) baritone in their duet "Lily's Eyes," is the showstopper worth the price of admission. The eye of affection of both gentlemen is long-deceased Lily. In this ever-present onstage role is Melissa Dupont, whose voice and every nuance exudes love and hope. Amy Facey's (Martha) wholesomeness rings delightful, and Scott Gilbert's (Dickon) charm oozes unassumingly.

It is difficult to find any flaw in this production. The only suggestion would be to add more flowers and greenery to the garden scene, and perhaps a scrim awash with bright color.

Not to be omitted is the pit band, led by Bill Martin, who continues to maintain his reputation as one of the best musical directors in community theatre.

Everyone deserves a bit of earth, a garden, a home with love. Archibald and Mary find theirs together. Audiences can find their own by entering "The Secret Garden."