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THE SECRET GARDEN: SUNY Musical Features Talented Local Youngsters in Lead Performances

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NEW PALTZ -- The Department of Theatre Arts at SUNY New Paltz will present a major staging of "The Secret Garden," an award-winning musical with book and lyrics by Marsha Norman, and music by Lucy Simon. It is based on the classic children's book by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The production runs October 16-19 and 23-26 and features a cast of 26, and a 14-piece orchestra.

Image available at"The Secret Garden" weaves an allegorical tale of death and rebirth, in which the three central characters find emotional renewal within a garden that is itself reborn after the ravages of winter and neglect. Because the lead characters in "The Secret Garden" are youngsters, director Donna Scheer has cast children from the community to perform these roles. Alternating in the role of Mary is Jennifer Edwards, age 11, from Poughkeepsie, and Arielle Lindstrom, age 13, from Cornwall-on-Hudson. Alternating in the role of Colin is Pierce Davis, age 11, of Blooming Grove, and A.J. Reitter, age 12, of Poughkeepsie.

Director Scheer was impressed with the level of talent in the local children who attended the audition and is thrilled with the talent and skills in the children who were cast. With the help of their parents and coaches, the young children spent a dedicated summer learning their roles and preparing for an arduous rehearsal schedule with the college students.

In the story, ten-year-old Mary Lennox is a lonely little girl who is sent to live with her Uncle Archibald in Yorkshire, England after being orphaned by a cholera epidemic in India. Her younger cousin Colin is Archibald's ailing son who has been shut away in a hidden manor room. Uncle Archibald still grieving over the loss of his beloved wife Lily, and distraught over the condition of his bedridden son casts a dark shadow over the manor.

After months of living in the gloomy mansion, Mary ventures outside to discover a hidden garden once belonging to Lily, and, with the help of Dickon, a magical boy who can charm and talk to animals, she proceeds to nurture it and see it blossom. It in turn, leads to "rebirth" for her and those around her.

Scheer sees the garden as a "metaphor for the human soul, specifically the soul of Mary's wounded, widowed Uncle Archibald." Simple dedication to reviving a deteriorated garden reaps rewards for Mary and everyone around her. Scheer adds, "In our current culture of instant gratification, The Secret Garden addresses the time-honored values of commitment and perseverance." The story will reawaken spirits and move audiences of all ages.

Music Director Stephen Kitsakos says, "The challenging score is quite moving. It builds upon a traditional musical theatre sound with the addition of instruments such as the Indian tabla and kamura, along with the wild folk rhythms of the British Isles. Lucy Simon, composer and sister of songwriter Carly Simon, has imaginatively captured the voices of Frances Hodgson Burnett's fragile characters."

The SUNY production runs October 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25 at 8 p.m. Matinee performances will occur on October 19, 25, 26 at 2 p.m. All performances are in McKenna Theatre, which is wheelchair accessible and equipped with an assisted listening system for the hearing impaired. Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 seniors and students. The McKenna Box Office is open Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. beginning October 6. For more information and ticket sales, call 845-257-3880.

Images from this production are online at

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