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THE SECRET GARDEN presented by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park through Oct. 3. Click here for more information on the production. I attended the opening night performance.
In a word, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s THE SECRET GARDEN is stunning. The synergy of the various facets of this production creates a magical night of theater.
Giant, handwritten pages, hanging and stacked on the floor serve as the play area. I enjoyed the simplicity of the design by Nareelle Sissons. Hidden elements and pieces managed by the cast add to the surreal quality. I also enjoyed how any use of color popped off the stage. The lighting design by Matthew Richards smartly helps define location and mood. The costume design by Leon Wiebers easily evokes the period and I enjoyed the bold color choices.
Performances are strong across the entire cast. Caitlin Cohn is incredibly believable as 10-year old Mary Lennox. Kevin Earley’s emotionally-damaged Archibald Craven (Mary’s uncle) is mesmerizing. Gayton Scott is charismatic and fun as Martha, chambermaid and confidant to Mary.
Music director Sariva Goetz fills the theater with the rich score and vocally the numbers soar. “Lily’s Eyes” sung powerfully by Archibald and Neville (Adam Monley) nearly stopped the show opening night. The staging of “Come Spirit, Come Charm” was very powerful and effective. Brandi Burkhardt sings beautifully as Lily. Her duets, “Come to My Garden” with Collin (Anthony Frederickson) and “How Can I Ever Know” were personal favorites.
Director/choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge evokes performances that are so emotionally true, the audience cannot help but be swept up in the story. The staging was imaginative and focused.
The one element that seems out of place, to me, is the use of the giant puppets very early in the production. It was unclear to me what they were supposed to represent. Additionally, since the show is so simply staged, the puppets seemed overly complicated and out of place.
Haunting and ethereal, visually strong with emotional and heartfelt performances, Playhouse’s THE SECRET GARDEN is an enthralling experience.
My rating: 5 out of 5.
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