BWW Review: THE SECRET GARDEN at Fairfield Center Stage
I don't know that I have the words to describe just how amazing Fairfield Center Stage's production of THE SECRET GARDEN is, as my mind is blown, yet again. As someone familiar with two different versions of the movie, based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, this is a stage show I had wanted to see for about two and a half decades. I believe that I can say with confidence that Fairfield Center Stage puts this show on in such a manner that Broadway would never be able to compete with! This show is a brilliant continuation of Fairfield Center Stage's consistent remarkable ability to bring familiar things to an audience in the best way we have ever seen! Fairfield Center Stage goes that extra mile to bring fantasy production undertakings to reality that they successfully pull off. On Friday, May 10, I had the pleasure of seeing the opening night performance at the Pequot Library in Fairfield, CT.
The venue is in a nice area that appears to be primarily residential, the Southport part of Fairfield. The inside stage is in a room that appears to have once possibly been a church, complete with stained glass windows up front towards the ceiling. The acoustics are incredible. This is a fine setting for Act One.
Act Two literally takes place outdoors, just outside the front entrance to the library. The seating is set up so that everyone sits in the same location relative to the stage that we were sitting in indoors during Act One. It was a clear night, with a crescent moon above, not too hot or too cold. Colored lights that consistently with each other become different colors at different times illuminate the backdrop creating a very visually appealing feel.
The incredibly talented live band led by Clay Zambo is stage left during Act One and stage right during Act Two. Having not been personally familiar with the music, other than, "Lily's Eyes," I am blown away by how many of the songs I tremendously like, which for me is rare, upon hearing the music for the first time. Lucy Simon wrote the music with lyrics by Marsha Norman who also wrote the book. The haunting sound of so many of the songs perfectly fits the mood of the story. The powerful voices of the cast members help illuminate the emotion and feeling behind these well crafted songs.
Christy McIntosh-Newsom is the skilled director who successfully leads this phenomenally talented ensemble cast comprised of actors and actresses who have strong individual talent and tight stage chemistry with each other. Beyond the singing voices, the accents and brogues are consistent and convincing. The acting is so believable that it becomes easy to forget that the cast members are only acting and not a real life manifestation of the fictional characters they portray,
For those not familiar with the story, the central character is Mary, a recently orphaned girl who was brought to live with her Uncle Archibald(her late mother Rose's late sister Lily's depressed husband) in a house that, at least to Archibald, feels haunted by the memories that come back to him in dreams and in his imagination. Despite being recently orphaned and often sassy, Mary manages to bring life to the house, as well as the staff who live and work there, making Mary a blessing to all people she meets, with the exception of Archibald's brother Neville who resents the fact that helping his brother out has, from Neville's perspective, interfered with and hindered Neville from living the life that he wants to live, an issue that creates friction and conflict with Mary. In addition to Lily's old garden that had been kept a secret, Archibald and Lily's son Colin has also been kept a secret from Mary, until Mary discovers him, her cousin who is the same age as her, but who has been kept largely in isolation, under the arguably faulty premise that Colin was terminally sickly and unable to walk. Mary wants to discover her Aunt Lily's garden and help her cousin Colin enjoy life.
Young actress Nikki Adorante excels in this role of Mary providing what would be considered an incredible performance from an actress at any age. She shares the role with Ainsley Dahlstrom, who is scheduled to play the role of Mary in the May 11, May 17, and May 19 productions. Nikki is scheduled to play the role again on May 12 and May 18.
Christopher Wilkes and Betsy Simpson Wilkes are naturally wonderful together as Archibald and Lily, respectively.
Jenny Silence and Nick Carrano provide strong performances as siblings Martha and Dickon who befriend Mary.
Some other standout performances include Nathan Horne as Colin, James Hisey as gardener Ben Weatherstaff, Marc Improta as Neville, Lauren Linn as Mary's disciplinarian Mrs. Medlock, and Eric Regan and Anne Collin as Mary's parents Albert and Rose, respectively.
Will Mary find the way into Aunt Lily's garden? If she does, will she like what she finds? Is Colin really in as poor a physical condition as he has been led to believe? Can Neville be trusted? Will Archibald ever feel a sense of happiness and joy again? Will Mary ultimately be considered welcome in her uncle's house? Will she be shipped off to school? Come to the show and find out!
I highly recommend THE SECRET GARDEN as performed by Fairfield Center Stage at the Pequot Library in Fairfield, CT. For times and tickets, please go to Tickets.