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'The Secret Garden' at Camelot Theatre

American playwright Marsha Norman explores the adult characters in her musical adaptation of "The Secret Garden," the children's novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

"We learn much more in the musical version about Archibald and his wife, Lily, and more about Mary's parents, Albert and Rose," says Rebecca Campbell, who is directing a production of Norman's Tony Award-winning "Secret Garden" for Camelot Theatre Company. "But the play stays true to the novel's characterizations of the Yorkshire people. Of Martha, Dickon and Ben. Those characters are the symbols of healing, of being one with the earth and of the natural world."

"The Secret Garden" will open Friday, Dec. 4. Previews will be offered Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 2-3, and the show will run through Jan. 3.

The story focuses on a young girl, Mary Lennox, born in India to wealthy British parents. When her parents die during an outbreak of cholera, Mary is sent to England to live with her reclusive uncle, Archibald Craven. Archibald, who still mourns the death of Lily, casts a dark shadow over the house, and he and Mary are haunted by memories of their pasts. From the chambermaid, Martha Sowerby, Mary learns of a walled garden that was Lily's favorite place. But Archibald has locked its entrance and hidden the key.

Mary finds the key and the entrance, and she begins to nurse the garden's roses back to life with the help of Martha's brother Dickon.

Mary also befriends Colin, Archibald's lonely, bedridden son who lost his mother during his birth, and the two begin to spend time in the garden, along with Dickon.

As the garden flourishes, so do Mary, Colin and, ultimately, the grieving Archibald.

"Mary becomes the key for her uncle, herself and her cousin to begin healing," Campbell says. "The house that she is brought to in England is like it is stuck. Archibald is deep within his grief, and he shuts everyone out, including his son. Mary brings them to a realization of what life can be without loss and pain."

Camelot's production of "The Secret Garden" stars Marian Horton as Lily, Andrew Brock as Archibald, Amanda Andersen as Martha and Michael Maisonneuve as Dickon. Young actors Caitlin Campbell and Julia Holden-Hunkin share the role of Mary, and Emma Defrucia and Jaimie Demaria share the role of Colin.

"The show is almost all music. It's like an operetta with no dialogue," Campbell says. "It requires some hefty part singing, sometimes in five- or six-part harmony, and we have some accomplished vocalists in our cast."

Horton and Brock have performed with Rogue Opera, as have others in Camelot's cast.

"It's their classical training that brings a richness to this production," Campbell says.

Musical direction for the Camelot production is by Mark Reppert, who recently retired from a 33-year career teaching music in public schools. He also directed music for Camelot's productions of "Cabaret" and "Shenandoah."

"We're blessed to have Mark," Campbell says. "He's always a teacher. So when he works with the actors, he knows how to pull the best out of them for the production. And he's great with any age, from children's roles to the adults'."

Pit musicians will include Aaron Blenkush and Joanna Lynden on keyboards, and an on-stage musician, Karl Iverson, will play sitar.

"Iverson plays the fakir who is with Mary in India," Campbell says. "Then as one of the dreamers throughout the rest of the play. He's taken it upon himself to learn the sitar for the production." Iverson is a former piano and composition student at Southern Oregon University.

"There's some dance in the show, too," Campbell says. "Amanda has assisted with choreographing a piece for the play called 'Come Spirit, Come Charm.' We have infused traditional Indian dance with traditional Yorkshire dance.

"The show will be something that all ages would enjoy."

Campbell holds a bachelor's of music and history from Pacific University in Forest Grove and a master's in teaching from SOU. She has directed and choreographed several productions at Camelot, and she teaches social studies at the Crater Academy of Natural Sciences.

Norman received a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for outstanding book of a musical for the 1991 Broadway production of "The Secret Garden." Her candid look at suicide, " 'night, Mother," received a Pulitzer in 1983.

Performances of "The Secret Garden" are set for 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays at Camelot Theatre. Tickets cost $21; $19 for students and seniors. The Dec. 2 preview will be a fundraiser for the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, and all tickets will be $20. Tickets to the Dec. 3 preview will be $12. A matinee will be offered at 2 p.m. Christmas Eve, Dec. 24. Reserved seating to all shows is available for an additional $2. Student rush tickets are $10 and will be offered five minutes before curtain, subject to availability. The theater's New year's Eve Gala performance will cost an additional $25 and will include a buffet, wine and dancing to live music.

From left, Andrew Brock, Julia Holden-Hunkin, Caitlin Campbell and Marian Horton appear in Camelot Theatre's production of 'The Secret Garden.' - Photo by Steve Sutfin