Thursday, April 2, 2009

This North Coast Weekend

Ferndale Repertory Theatre opens The Secret Garden tonight (Thursday, April 2.) This 1991 musical is probably the best known of the many adaptations and extensions of the 1911 children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, who also wrote Little Lord Fauntleroy. With book by playwright Marsha Norman (‘night, Mother), and staged around the time of Sondheim’s Into the Woods, this musical originally dealt with complex themes often inhabiting children’s stories, and even Burnett’s novel was said to be influenced by Theosophical ideas.

But basically there’s Lucy Simon’s music, the beguiling if repeated story of a displaced orphan (which in this case somewhat mirrors Burnett’s own life) confronting sinister and colorful figures, and the perennially enchanting image of the secret garden (or wardrobe, looking-glass, Pepperland…)

The Ferndale Rep production appears very promising, with young Brianna Schatz as the heroine, Brad Curtis as the aptly named Alexander Craven, and a cast of supporting players that mixes skilled local veterans with fresh faces and voices. The production team is also impressive: The Rep’s Executive Director Ginger Gene directs, with musical direction by Dianne Zuleger and choreography by Linda Maxwell.

In their press release, Brad Curtis suggests the musical’s themes will resonate emotionally in these troubled times, and Ginger Gene affirms that there “are layers of meaning for audience members of all ages. Ultimately, this play is about courage and the willingness to search for the magic in life and the joy that awaits all who open their hearts.”
This weekend and next at the Arcata Playhouse is the outstanding Redwood Curtain production of Bad Dates, which I review in the Journal here.

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