The lights illuminate spirits in blue 1900-era dresses and jackets swaying to the haunting melody of Laura Owen. She sings to the deceased Lily Craven, her conquering “oohs” setting the ghostly tone perfectly, as the living mixes with the dead in the play adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel The Secret Garden. The play is directed by Evan Parry, with musical direction by David Templeton.
The theater and music departments combined to convey the story’s most important theme: healing.
Archibald Craven, played by Daniel Sokol, has been widowed by his beloved wife, Lily. Her singing haunts him nightly, and he limps through the halls searching for his late beloved. His niece Mary Lennox, played by Lindy Turner, also suffers losses when her parents and their staff all die unexpectedly. The two are brought together on such circumstances, and Mary moves from India to Archie’s estate in Yorkshire. In Yorkshire, Mary hears crying most nights, prompting her to roam the house. She sees spirits lingering in the halls, always watching over the living.
Mary brings light to the lonely Lennox manor in the same way young Turner lights up the stage. The fifth grader’s excellent British accent- which she even maintains while singing- mixed with her exuberance, bring the scenes to life, allowing the other actors to thrive off her energy. This is seen in Jonathan Ford, played by Dickon Sowerby. His antics in the garden while with Lennox are both upbeat and memorable.
Ben Weatherstaff, played by Chip Miller, works in the garden. Weatherstaff and Ford teach Mary how to garden, and end up letting her in on a little secret: her Aunt Lily’s old garden has been locked up for years. This prompts an adventure as Mary works to discover and fix her aunt’s former land.
Youth seems to be the trend of the performance, as Lindy Turner is not the only adolescent stepping into a sizable role. The young Gavin Farewell plays Colin Craven, Archibald Craven’s sick and neglected son. The brightness of Turner’s character is what ultimately moves the plot along and brings Archie, Colin and all of the other characters at the estate, who truly are not letting themselves live and heal, back to life.
The actors playing the deceased sway back and forth, stand in picture frames and sing behind the live ones- representing a backdrop of those whom the living refuse to let go. This plays into the theme of healing, and the focus switches to the living relationships as the play progresses and the characters are forced to let go of their losses and heal.
The Secret Garden is running until March 1 at 7:30 p.m. in Emmett Robinson Theater. Cost for students is $12.