Step into my Garden

Bainbridge Performing Arts brings the musical version of family classic “A Secret Garden” to its stage beginning May 9.

As spring ushers daffodils and rhododendron into the Northwest, Bainbridge Performing Arts ushers a story of growth and renewal onto its boards.

“The Secret Garden” is a children’s classic novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, first published in 1909 and adapted for stage and screen many times in its 99-year history. BPA’s version is the stage musical, adapted by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon, which opened on Broadway in 1991 and won three Tony awards. Among the coveted awards was a Tony for its lead actress who, at 11 years old, is the youngest person ever to win this honor.

For those of you who missed one of the screen versions or perhaps read the novel so long ago its details have faded, the story follows Mary Lennox, a British girl raised in India who loses both her parents to a cholera epidemic.

The lonely Mary is then sent to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven, in an isolated country house in Yorkshire. Her uncle, a man still mourning the death of his wife a decade past, mostly ignores his niece and Mary is left to her own devices. Luckily, she is befriended by Martha, a chambermaid, and Martha’s younger brother Dickon. She also discovers her cousin, Colin, a sour, bedridden boy who tolerates almost no one, but develops an affection for Mary, the only person he’s unable to intimidate.

When Mary discovers a walled garden that has been neglected since the mistress Craven’s death, she finds a new purpose for her life. With the help of Dickon and, eventually, Colin, Mary begins repairing the garden; its propagations, in turn, healing the hearts of those damaged by loss.

It’s a story of transformation. The garden is a literal representation of the growth made by the characters who are touched by it.

“The secret garden is the human heart,” said Theresa Thuman, who’s directing the production.

It’s also a story that brings together a mix of cultures, weaving threads of young and old, east and west, poor and rich, and the living and spirit worlds together in a tapestry of human experience.

This is Thuman’s fourth production for BPA — she most recently directed BPA’s production of “Urinetown” in 2007. She is also a trained dialect coach, which has been helpful for a cast working at mastering proper British and Yorkshire accents.

The cast includes quite a few BPA regulars as well as several new faces, most notably Jeni Hawkes in the part of Lily Craven. She recently relocated to Kitsap County from San Diego and has theater credits including national stage performances and television appearances.

The role of Mary is played by 12-year-old Chloe Hosterman, who proved her vocal abilities as young Cosette in the BPA production of “Les Miserables” last year. Performance is deeply rooted in Hosterman with both her mother and sister frequently treading the boards. Though she is not new to performing, Mary is her largest role to date as she is onstage in almost every scene. She is clearly enjoying the challenge.

“I get a different outlook on life after every show … a new show is a new aspect on life.” Hosterman said.

Thuman noted that many talented girls auditioned for the part of Mary, adding that “Chloe has a complexity that brings a lot to the character.”

Other prominent actors include Susan R. Anderson as Mrs. Medlock, Mikaela Karter as Martha, Kevin Matthew as Archibald Craven, J. Stegar Thompson as Neville Craven, Peter Denis as Ben, Dylan Wilson as Dickon, and Dylan Arnold in the role of Colin Craven.

Musical direction was provided by Lynda Sue Welch. “The Secret Garden” has a lyrical and challenging score that requires powerful vocals. Thuman said that much of “the music represents the spirit world … how the spirit world gives encouragement to the living world.” WU

An opening night reception will kick off “The Secret Garden” on Friday, May 9 and the show will run Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. through May 25. There is also a pay-what-you-can preview May 8.