FloArts presents the musical, “The Secret Garden”

The Secret Garden
Musical by FloArts Students

By Penny Powell

“I need a place to spend the day
Where no one says to go or stay
Where I can take my pen and draw
The girl I mean to be…”

“The Secret Garden,” a heartwarming musical based on the novel by Frances Hodgon Burnett, is coming to the Florida School of the Arts (FloArts) at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 24 to Saturday, February 26, and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 27. Along with richly textured music and creative scenic surprises, “The Secret Garden” will take place on FloArts’ main stage located on the Palatka campus of St. Johns River State College (SJR State). Tickets are $10.

With the book and lyrics by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon, the action of “The Secret Garden” takes place in 1906 and earlier in British Colonial India and Misselthwaite Manor, North Yorkshire, England. After a cholera outbreak orphans 10-year-old Mary Lennox, a young English girl born and raised in British Rah, India, she is sent to Yorkshire, England to live in the manor of her brooding uncle whom she has never met. There, her personality blossoms among the other residents of the manor and the moor as they bring new life to a long-neglected garden.

The Acting
According to the play’s director, FloArts acting professor Patricia Crotty, the show is filled with glorious music and a heartwarming story of the renewing power of a child’s love and courage. The students bring a delight in storytelling to their work in this piece. “In order to fully create the world of Yorkshire, England in the early 1900s, they have been in dialect rehearsals, as well as music and dance rehearsals,” Crotty said. “Additionally, they have been learning the manners and movement required to wear the period clothing with ease. It is a true ensemble piece, and they are a strong, tight-knit ensemble.”

The cast of the two-act play includes Amanda Gazy as Mary Lennox; Courtney Burnett as Lily Craven, Mary’s aunt (now dead); Nick Aiello as Archibald Craven, Lily’s husband; Eric Barnum as Dr. Neville Craven, Archibald’s brother; Teoman Karaagac as Fakir, an Indian mystic; Chelsey Lake as Ayah, Mary’s Indian nanny; Terri Castelli as Mrs. Medlock, the Craven’s housekeeper; Hannah Seyler as Martha, a housemaid; Reid Norris as Dickon, Martha’s brother; Suzannah Gaston as Colin Craven, Archibald and Lily’s son; Maggie Rashaw as Ben Weatherstaff, the head gardener; Natalie Drake as Mrs. Winthrop, headmistress; Jacob Brown as William, a servant; Alicia Griffin as nurse; Crystal Addison as Jane; The Dreamers: Memories and Ghosts from the past include McKayla Whiteside as Rose Lennox, Mary’s mother; Corey McKinney as Captain Albert Lennox, Mary’s father; Sydney Sheffield as Alice, Rose’s friend; Padraig Kinnare as Lieutenant Wright, fellow officer; Kwabena Flewellyn as Major Shelley, an officer; Lucy Jones as Mrs. Shelley, Major Shelley’s wife; and Kira Heuring as Claire Holmes, Rose’s friend.

The Music
Kandie Smith, FloArts musical theater voice professor and music director of “The Secret Garden,” said that she couldn’t be more pleased with the play’s diversity of music, how well it’s written, and how equally delightful it is to both sing and hear.

“’The Secret Garden’ has one of the most beautiful scores I have ever heard,” said Smith. “The composer, Lucy Simon, has quite a reputation for writing pop songs, but for this production, she has written a score filled with wonderful and diverse styles of music ranging from distinctive melodies that evoke East India to charming folk melodies and children's songs. A large portion of the music is lush and romantic with a delicate, liquid quality that is very impressionistic, like the paintings of Monet,” Smith explained. “There is something wonderful and appealing for every listener.”

The Songs
Among the 30 songs to be performed include “A Bit of Earth” by Archibald; “Lily’s Eyes” by Archibald and Neville; “The Girl I Mean to Be” by Mary and Company; “Come to My Garden” by Lily and Colin; and “Hold On” by Martha.

In the opening number, “Opening Dream” by Lily, Fakir, and Mary and Company, there is a short section that includes a children's song ("Mistress Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?") and requires children's voices; therefore, FloArts collaborated with the St. Augustine Youth Chorus, “who generously recorded that section for us,” said Smith. The production team for this purpose included directors Kerry Fradley and Barbara Mattingly; collaborative artist Natalya Green; student assistant Bella Manchuca; and chorus members Adah Bales, Ada DeLarosa, Analuisa DeLarosa, David Green, Adeline Henley, Sara Hickernell, Sol Johnson, Tesla Johnson, Ellena Kulik, Hunter McKay, Joshua McKay, Sera Pitts, Roslyn Stowers and Amelia Veniard.

The Scenery and Lighting
Considering it is Victorian-era pop-up books that ‘The Secret Garden’ is based on, FloArts scenic design professor Tim Castell said, “We wanted to capture the innocence and magic that comes with turning each page.”

Due to the various locations in the story, Castell said that the crew desired to make the scene transitions swift and dramatic, much like a pop-up book. “The walls on either side of the stage flip over to reveal a completely different setting, much like the action of opening and closing a book,” he said. The creation of smaller scenic units provides a variety of rooms of a manor, as well as colonial India scenes, a hedge maze, and a garden in full bloom.

“There was a challenge in creating indoor versus outdoor settings, and one solution was to utilize different textures and color of light,” said Castell, who works closely with lighting design instructor Torrie Sanders. “Also, using light, we are able to create vast, open settings as well as tight, intimate settings by focusing the light on different areas on the stage. In all, the scenic and lighting design work cohesively to create a living set that is constantly transforming and will reveal surprises and, hopefully, instill a sense of wonder that one might feel when perusing a pop-up book,” he said.

The Choreography
The sweeping choreographic movements that fill the stage will transport the audience back in time. “It's a breathtaking moment that leaves you wondering what is real and what is left only in the memory of the characters,” FloArts dance and ballet professor Jessica Mayhew-Borrero said.

In addition to the waltz in the ballroom scene being adorned with “romanticism, elegance, reflection, and reminiscence,” Mayhew-Borrero said that the choreography will also include “a mixture of abstract movement signifying death, time-period waltzing with ghostly encounters and cultural references to India and Celtic ruins.”

The Production Crew (consisting of students and faculty)
The production crew consists of Director Patricia Crotty; Music Director Kandie Smith; Choreography Jessica Mayhew-Borrero; Scenic Design and Projections Design Tim Castell; Lighting and Sound Design and Props Master Victoria “Torrie” Sanders; Costume Design, Cutters and Drapers: Tiffany Jordan, Shea McCord, Emily Schafer and Dimitri Sieracki; Associate Director Anna Guzman; Production Stage Manager Kati Blankenship; Assistant Music Director McKayla Whiteside; Assistant Stage Managers: Crystal Addison and Caleb Rose; Assistant Scenic Designer and Paint Charge Nicole Barnes; Assistant Sound Designers: Kennedy Largin and Kandie Smith

Production Assistants: Alicia Griffin and Morgan Johnston; Assistant to the Lighting Designer and Sound Board Operator Dianette Moore; Assistant Projections Design and Projections Operator Rhianna Kirkland; Assistant Props Master and Light Board Operator Vyn Arellano; Props Artisans: Lourdes Bados, Terri Castelli, Alain Hentschel, Kira Heuring and Rhianna Kirkland; Puppeteers Nicole Barnes and Peyton Kalaczynski; Sound Engineer Kennedy Largin; SFX Operator Lourdes Bados; First Hands Sebastian Parks and Lindsey Spaulding; Stitchers Austin Butcher, Terri Castelli, Amanda Gazy and Teoman Karaagac; Dressers Shea McCord, Dimitri Sieracki and Lindsey Spaulding; Set Construction Crew: Crystal Addison, Vyn Arellano, Christi Arnold, Lourdes Bados, Nicole Barnes, Zachary Brunke, Suzannah Gaston, Kira Heuring, Lucy Jones, Rhianna Kirkland, Kennedy Largin, Corey McKinney, Dianette Moore and Caleb Rose; Understudies: Eric Barnum, Jacob Brown, Natalie Drake, Kwabena Flewellyn, Anna Guzman, Kira Heuring, Lucy Jones, Hannah Seyler and Sydney Sheffield; and House Manager Nikki Eldredge.

Serving the entire state of Florida, FloArts is part of the academic and administrative structure of SJR State and awards associate degrees in acting, dance performance, musical theater, stage management, theater technology, graphic design/new media and studio art. Admission is based on an audition or portfolio review, an interview with the faculty and admission to SJR State.

For more information about Florida School of the Arts, call 386-312-4300 or visit FloArts.



Susan Kessler
Director of Public Relations and Publications
(386) 312-4021