Flashes of lighting strike the stage and the actors begin to chuckle. They suddenly burst out into chorus singing “I saw the light.”
The ladies are dressed in white long dresses and are holding red handkerchiefs in their hands. The men are suited up in khaki long sleeved shirts and pants. The actors talk amongst themselves. The sense of connection between the actors is felt across the stage. The lights go out and the next scene begins. Welcome to John Brown University’s Fall Production: “The Secret Garden.”
“The Secret Garden” is a musical based on a children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The story is about Mary Lennox, who was orphaned in India and now returns to Yorkshire to live with her bitter and solitary uncle and his son. Lennox’s uncle lives in a mansion that is full of secrets such as the “Dreamers”, spirits from Mary’s past that guide her through her new life.
Mallory Hampton, sophomore intercultural studies major, plays the role of Lennox. Hampton has had a wonderful time being in this production and enjoys hanging out back stage with the other cast members.
“A challenge I have faced while acting is the fact that I can’t do scripted laughs. When I try for a fake laugh it comes out sounding like a goose; it’s horrible. Also memorizing all the lines is very difficult at times,” Lennox said.
Luke Merrick, junior music major, plays the role of Archibald Craven, the uncle with whom Mary comes to stay with.
Merrick enjoys singing and acting and when asked about his favorite thing about the production he said, “Other than the people who I am in it with, it has to be the music. I know that sounds cliché, but the music is really incredible and the lyricist has done a wonderful job of reinforcing the high and low points of the play with appropriate music.”
Liesl Dromi is the director of the musical and her favorite things about the production are the universal themes of grief and loss, overcoming hard circumstances, the power of love to heal and renew people and relationships.
“These universal themes are told primarily through the perspective of young children, which brings a magical freshness to the story,” Dromi said.
Dromi, a mother of three, chose this production because she wanted to present an artistic experience that would inspire and uplift children, and reawaken childlike joy and wonder in adults.
Dromi said she found challenging to bring this musical to life since the story takes place in two different continents, making it difficult due to limited space.
“It forced the production design team to be nimble and creative, and I think the result is artistically and emotionally compelling,” Dromi said.