Bloom Where You’re Planted
FSLT’s ‘Secret Garden’ is lush, magical place
The Fort Smith Little Theatre will mount the musical version of the beloved classic children’s book “The Secret Garden,” beginning with a Gala Opening Night event at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
The children’s novel was written in 1911 and has remained a popular staple of children’s bookshelves ever since. The stage musical of the book opened on Broadway in 1991 and was nominated for seven Tony Awards, ultimately winning the prize for Best Book of a Musical and Best Featured Actress in a Musical for the actress playing the central character of the story, newly orphaned Mary, who is returned to the care of her uncle after both parents are killed by cholera in India. Her uncle’s house is dank and dark, as he struggles with a depression of his own due to the death of his wife, Lily, the original creator of the titular garden, which has been allowed to wither and die in the aftermath of her death. Mary will ultimately revive the garden, and, along the way, revive her sickly cousin Colin and her uncle, as well.
“The garden has been unattended and giving it love and care and attention brought it back to life,” says director Carole Rogers, who is shepherding the show — along with longtime FSLT musical director George Mann — toward opening night. “That’s what happens to the family, as well. Through Mary’s efforts, this father realizes that his child can walk, sees the garden blooming, and the three of them become a family.”
Rogers says playgoers will revel in the sweet story as well as the rousing score.
“You may have never heard the music before, but once you hear it, you won’t forget it,” promises Rogers. “It’s beautifully done.”
Rogers has been involved with FSLT for around 25 years. She had never stepped foot on a stage until she was nearly 50 years old, when she was cast as Sophia in the company’s production of “Social Security.”
“I was in the throes of empty-nest syndrome, looking for something to do,” she says. “I did my very first part, and that was it. You just get the bug. I’ve made wonderful friends here.”
Rogers directed “Money Matters” last year, but she says this is the first largescale musical she has taken on. She admits that the 20-plus person cast can be challenging.
“But when it all comes together — we have one point where some of the chorus is singing in the aisles and some on stage, and it’s literally like stereo sound — it’s absolutely beautiful.
“We have such talent,” she continues. “It’s amazing how much talent we have in an area as small as ours.”
The Gala Opening Night on Thursday will include complimentary hors d’oeuvres and champagne prior to the performance and dessert at intermission.
Katy Featherston as Martha, Brenden Chick as Colin, Marie Gray as Mary and Eric Wells as Dickon rehearse for the Fort Smith Little Theatre’s production of “The Secret Garden.”