The Secret Garden at Fine Arts Association is Landscaped With Beautiful Vocals

Fine Arts Association
Community Theatre

Book and Lyrics by MARSHA NORMAN
Based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burn

Living in a lonely manor house on the Yorkshire moors in 1906, Archibald Craven (Ron Davis) yearns for his beautiful, late wife Lily (Lindsey Leonard). He blames his crippled son,Colin (Jackson Hodkey), for his wife’s death. Although he loves Colin, he cannot cope with seeing him, and has left Colin isolated and in the care of his doctor uncle Neville (Kyle Lorek). Their quiet routine is turned upside down when young Mary Lennox (Molly Kessler), a rich, spoiled child, is sent to live with them following the death of her parents from cholera in India. Mary is the late Lily’s niece, and has no relatives closer than Archie, whom she has never met. While living at the manor house, looked after by her maid Martha (Emily Stack), Mary discovers a secret walled garden hidden in the grounds and with the help of local child of nature Dickon (Stephen Sandham), releases the magic and adventures locked inside, changing all of their their lives forever.

As Mary, Kessler drives through the story with confidence, and quite a bit of required sass. She handles this major role with solid vocal chops that really come to life in Act Two. Davis is fantastic as Archibald Craven. He handles the dynamic score with beautiful tone and fabulous control. Emotionally charged performance. Countering is Lorek as Dr. Neville Craven. He cuts a fine figure as the villain, and delivers just the right amount of soullessness to allow us to root even more for Mary. His voice is electric as his operatic overtones cover his accomplished range and deliver the goods. The key to an excellent Lily, is to have someone who has a clarion soprano voice that has incredible control to highlight the emotionally piercing moments of the score. Leonard knocks it out of the garden and the ballroom. From the first notes sung in the show, she is spell binding. Her voice is a gift, and her presence is radiant. Stack as Martha is a hoot. Boundless energy, and serving character realness to the upmost degree. Her song "Hold On", is one of the highlights of the show. Sandham as Dickon, is a pleasant cacophony of charm and vocal entertainment. His Dickon is a pleasant soul, who wholesome presence becomes a beacon of hope and support to young Mary. You find yourself cheering him on, knowing he is on our side. His silky effortless voice is another gift to the production. Hodkey crushes the role of Colin Craven. This is one of the strongest performances in this role I have seen in a long time. Tremendous control of character and a heartbreaking voice. When he finds the strength he has needed, i felt like the world raised up as well. In the garden, Greg Gnau is an excellent Ben Weatherstaff. So damn likeable, and creates a charming presence. There are many Dreamers in the production who act like a greek chorus. I have to say the Jonathan Merechant and Carmen-Mariah Rey, as Fakir and Ayah, provided some quality character work, and looked fierce in their costumes. 

Director Sandy Kosovich Peck has vocally cast a winning ensemble and the results are a pleasure. She keeps the action moving well, and handles the myriad of Dreamers well. Music Director Edward Leonard provides a solid wall of emotional sound for the story. Choreographer Jill Tschetter provides appropriate movement that enhances the story. Technical and Set Designer Michael Roesch does an outstanding and efficient job providing the landscape. Lighting Designer Bradley Allan provides all the right atmosphere. Sound Designer Tom Linsenmeier is spot on in delivering clear dialogue and lyrics to the audience. Costume Designer Colleen Bloom deserves a massive round of applause for her creative representation. 

There are a few observations. Sometimes the Dreamers get a little off when executing their circle movements. Lily's Eyes was vocally dynamic, however, having each actor having to travel upstage in between lyrics seemed unnecessary. The biggest missed moment was at the end where Archibald tells Neville to basically hit the road. The scene is a most enjoyable diss as you usually watch Neville self destruct over being sent away. However, the scene was played straight, so Neville actually sounded thankful, instead of audience being able to ask "Do you need a ride to your car?"

The show is a vocal bouquet. Audiences will find the story and performance charming. This is a great family show, and kids will certainly be rooting for Mary, and Colin. It is the kind of story that we all need right now. So grab the kids and get out to the show!

Cleveland Stage Alliance
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

June 7 - June 23


7:30pm Fridays
7:30pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays (Sign interpreted performance 6/23, No performance 6/16)

$15-$25 Reserved Seating

(440) 951-7500

Fine Arts Association
38660 Mentor Ave.
Willoughby OH 44094