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“The Secret Garden” Is a Tony Award®-Winning Musical Based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Novel

"The Secret Garden" garnered seven 1991 Tony Award® nominations, and won three Tonys

"The Secret Garden" garnered seven 1991 Tony Award® nominations, and won three Tonys

The Justice Theater Project will kick off its 2011-12 season with the Tony Award®-winning 1991 Broadway musical The Secret Garden, with music by Lucy Simon and a book and lyrics by Marsha Norman, based on the beloved 1911 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, on Sept. 9-11, 16-18, and 23-25 in Clare Hall at the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi in north Raleigh, NC.

The Secret Garden garnered seven Tony nominations, including nominations for Best Musical and Best Original Score; and won the Tonys for Best Book of a Musical (Marsha Norman), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Daisy Eagan as 10-year-old Mary Lennox), and Best Scenic Design (Heidi Landesman).

Justice Theater Project artistic director Deb Royals-Mizerk will direct The Secret Garden, which is the first of three JTP productions devoted to this season’s theme: “‘Our Planet. Our People. Our Plight’ — stewardship of the environment.”

According to The Justice Theater Project:

“Mary Lennox [Monica Powell] is a lonely little girl who is sent to live with her uncle Archibald Craven [Zach Thomas] in Yorkshire after being orphaned by a cholera epidemic in India. Still grieving over the loss of his beloved wife Lily [Carly Prentis Jones and Mary Kathryn Walston] , who died 10 years earlier during childbirth and distraught over the condition of his bedridden son, Archibald casts a dark shadow over the manor until Mary discovers a secret garden that had once belonged to Lily. By nursing this garden back to life, Mary restores life to her grieving uncle, and to his son Colin [Asher Phillips]. This piece begins a season-long dialogue about the possibility of life and healing in all environments.”

Besides the actors and actresses named above, principal performers for The Secret Garden also includes Edward Cooke as Archibald’s brother Dr. Neville Craven, Allison Lawrence as the housekeeper Mrs. Medlock, Mary Reilly as the young chambermaid Martha, Jeffrey Vizcaino as Martha’s brother Dickon, Lester Hill as the old gardener Ben Weatherstaff, and Renee Wimberely as Mary’s mother Rose Lennox.

Justice Theater Project associate scenographer Tom Wolf described the production and specific set design as follows:

The Secret Garden has one of the largest casts ever staged by JTP. Because of our trademark intimate staging style, this is a wonderful challenge to work all of the characters in and around our audience without overwhelming them. Due to our flexibility, you will see a new venue layout that really brings it all together.

“Many productions of this show use a super-realistic set design to implement the famous garden scenes. We’ve chosen to go with a more symbolic set design to focus attention onto the actors and the story. Instead of a traditional proscenium design, our set is distributed through the entire space, allowing the actors many entrance/exit points and close interaction with the audience.

“This show, with the ‘ghost” chorus,’ presents wonderful opportunities for dramatic lighting. The interplay of the ‘live, present,’ juxtaposed with the ‘dead, past,’ is enhanced by careful control of both the color and direction of the lighting, done mostly with energy efficient LED lighting. Costumes will be era authentic,” circa 1906 in Colonial India and at Misselthwaite Manor in North Yorkshire in England.

The Justice Theater Project also writes:

“[The Secret Garden will feature] scenography by Shannon Clark, Tom Wolf, and Nora Murphy, stage management by Leanne Norton Heintz, and technical assistance and assistant stage management by Andrew LaPointe.

“Woven into this production is a dance ensemble comprised of local Indian dancers. [Justice Theater Project] artistic director Deb Royals-Mizerk describes the dance ensemble:

“‘The Dance techniques used for the choreography of The Secret Garden are based on South Indian classical dance form called Kuchipudi. Working with The Secret Garden production team is Indian choreographer Prathima Chintala. She is an Indian classical dancer, trained in South Indian Classical Dance. She has performed in both India and United States. She won best talent and most photogenic titles in the Mrs. India North Carolina contest held in September 2009 by Miss India North Carolina (http://missindianc.us/) and was first runner-up in the Mrs. India Category.

“‘Prathima is part of the professional dance group, Aakrisht, lead by the President Award winner Mr. Sanjib Bhattacharya and well-known Kathak dancer in North Carolina Mrs. Rinku Bhattacharya. She studies and performs Indian contemporary dance forms and Manipuri dance form from Mr. Sanjibji and performs at various events held in United States[. She] will be performing with the Indo-American Arts Council in New York City this month. She also studied basics of Jazz/Modern at Ninth Street Dance.’

“The issues of care and stewardship of the environment will be addressed during three nights of preshow discussions and events. On Saturday night, Sept. 17th, at 7:30 p.m. ,representatives from NC WARN [http://www.ncwarn.org/] will engage the audience in a conversation about the way in which our care of environment and resources — or lack of it — enriches lives far beyond our back door, and how we can all make small changes that will have a restorative impact on our environment.

“On Friday and Saturday, Sept. 23rd and 24th, at 7:30 p.m., Duke University students currently participating in Performance for Social Change classes will lead the audience in exercises designed to create insight into our personal response to the environment.”

“The Justice Theater Project (JTP) is an advocacy and activist theater company whose mission is to use the performing arts to bring to the fore of public attention the needs of the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed. Each year JTP presents a diverse combination of original works, main stage productions, and community outreach events focusing on issues of social justice.”

The Justice Theater Project presents THE SECRET GARDEN at 8 p.m. Sept. 9 and 10, 2 p.m. Sept. 11, 8 p.m. Sept. 16 and 17, 2 p.m. Sept. 18, 8 p.m. Sept. 23 and 24, and 2 p.m. Sept. 25 in Clare Hall at the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi, 11401 Leesville Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27613.

TICKETS: $20 ($15 students and seniors), except $10 on Sept. 11th and $12 for groups of 10 or more.

BOX OFFICE: 919/264-7089, marketing@thejusticetheaterproject.org, or http://www.etix.com/ticket/online/venueSearch.jsp?venue_id=7353.

SHOW: http://www.thejusticetheaterproject.org/productions/production_detail/146/.

PRESENTER: http://www.thejusticetheaterproject.org/.

VENUE: http://www.stfrancisraleigh.org/.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://www.stfrancisraleigh.org/mapsandphotos.

NOTE 1: There will be a complimentary opening-night reception after the Sept. 9th performance, sponsored by the Leesville Tap Room (http://leesvilletaproom.com/).

NOTE 2: At 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 17th, there will be preshow discussion with NC WARN (http://www.ncwarn.org/).

NOTE 3: On Sept. 18th, SEED Raleigh (http://www.Seedraleigh.org/) will provide FREE babysitting services for the first 20 children registered.

NOTE 4: At 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 23rd and 24th, there will be preshow discussions with Performance for Social Change students from Duke University (http://www.duke.edu/).

NOTE 5: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 2 p.m. Sept. 25th performance.

OTHER LINKS:

The Musical: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Secret_Garden_(musical) (Wikipedia), http://www.guidetomusicaltheatre.com/shows_s/secretgarden.htm (The Guide to Musical Theatre), and http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=7825 (Internet Broadway Database).

The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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