The Fort Smith Little Theatre delivers a great performance once again! With 2 kids under 3 years old, my wife and I rarely get to enjoy evenings alone and so, when we finally had the chance, we decided to see the latest creation from the Fort Smith Little Theatre. We were not disappointed! The Secret Garden was a masterfully orchestrated and skillfully executed musical Adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic fairy tale of the same name.
Set in the early 20th century, the story revolves around Mary Lennox, a young child of wealthy parents, who is sent to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven, in his expansive manor in Yorkshire, England, after her parents and servants succumbed to a cholera outbreak while living in India. In the manor, Mary Discovers a hidden garden, locked and overgrown with vines. She then becomes staunchly committed to reviving the garden to its former beauty.
What made this musical magical is that Mary was surrounded by “Dreamers”, spirits from Mary’s past, including her mother and father, who guide her in her new life through hauntingly beautiful music. The way the cast playing the “Dreamers” was placed on elevated platforms on stage gave them an almost unreal aura, a small detail that made a big impact in my eyes. As the musical progressed, sadness turned into hope and it showed the impact that a little girl can have when she desperately wants something to change and grow.
The star of the show, Mary Lennox, is played by Marie Gray. Miss Gray is a Greenwood native and currently goes to Greenwood High School. Miss Gray has been heavily involved in theatre and the school choir for several years. From Marie: “I hope anyone who is in a dark place is reminded that there is peace and happiness in the future when they’re ready to seek it out.”
There are too many cast members to list in this ensemble musical, which comprises of 9 actors playing the various parts of current day life in Yorkshire, and 10 dreamers, including Mary’s mom, dad and servants from India. Each brought a singular element to the musical and as an ensemble cast, kept you entertained for the duration of the show.
Directing this brilliantly executed play are George Mann (musical director) and Carole Rogers (stage director). Both are veterans of the theatre community. For Carole, although she has directed numerous FSLT production, this was her first musical. For George, The Secret Garden was an irresistible dream of his ever since he directed it with Southside High School over 20 years ago. Together, they created a truly wonderful musical that kept its audience captivated and my wife and I found ourselves discussing it at length after the show.
The Fort Smith Little Theatre is an all-volunteer organization and has been since it was founded in 1947. It produces 6 shows a year. With 4 shows already passed, 2 shows remain in the 2017 season. Tickets are available 2 weeks in advance of the first night of each play and are usually $10 for plays and $15 for musicals. Each play lasts roughly 2 hours with a 15 minute intermission. Regular evening performances of The Secret Garden are August 2-5 and 10-12 with a matinee on August 6.