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Apache Junction teen joins ‘The Secret Garden’ cast, on stage April 6-16

Posted 3/15/23

Places! Productions will bring to life the mystical, magical garden from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved children’s story with “The Secret Garden,” performing April 6-8 at …

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Things to do

Apache Junction teen joins ‘The Secret Garden’ cast, on stage April 6-16


Places! Productions will bring to life the mystical, magical garden from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved children’s story with “The Secret Garden,” performing April 6-8 at East Valley High School and April 13-16 at the Mesa Arts Center. The show is performed by a youth cast comprised of performers ages 8-18 as well as a community cast featuring kids and adults of all ages.

A musical reimagining of the classic tale by the same name, “The Secret Garden” is a heartwarming story of growth and redemption replete with ghosts, magic and intrigue. Set in the early 1900s, the story follows a young girl, Mary Lennox, who is left orphaned by a cholera epidemic and sent to live with her hermit uncle at his secluded country manor in Yorkshire.

Apache Junction’s Charlotte Miller, 16, is playing the role of Mrs. Shelley, the person who escorts Mary from India to England after her parents’ death. Miller is also one of the Dreamers, a chorus of ghosts who shepherd Mary as she struggles to recover from the tragedy of losing her parents.

“The Dreamers are deceased people from Mary’s life in India,” said Miller. “While playing this part, I get to participate in multiple dance scenes and sing often.”

“As director, I always begin my process by going back to the source material,” said Allison Houston, director of “The Secret Garden” and founding artistic director of Places! “The novel is very different from the musical, especially the concept of ‘The Dreamers.’ They are crucial in the storytelling of the musical, and we’ve incorporated them into several additional moments as Mary remembers her past and finds purpose and belonging in this new chapter of her life that the musical portrays.”

Central to the story is Mary’s Uncle Archibald whose grief at the loss of his wife, Lily, casts a pall over the entire estate. Archibald’s young, crippled son, Colin, also lives as a shut in, spending his days and nights isolated and in bed.

Things shift for the family when Mary discovers her late Aunt Lily’s hidden garden, locked and overgrown, and is determined to restore its beauty. Guided by the Dreamers and with the help of Dickon, the first person on the estate to befriend Mary, she strips away the sadness that engulfs the household. Through the garden, Mary also helps Archibald and Colin confront the grief that has long imprisoned them.

Both casts are working hard to embody their characters and take audiences along on the journey from unspeakable tragedy to vibrant new hope.

“I have really enjoyed watching other actors fully commit to their characters and express pain, happiness and anger through the arts,” said Miller.

She and her cast mates are also working hard to perfect the production’s soaring musical numbers. The score includes beloved favorites like “Lily’s Eyes,” “How Could I Ever Know” and “Girl I Mean to Be.”

Said Houston, “This is one of the most beautiful scores I’ve ever heard. I think it’s impossible to not be moved by the music.”

“I have participated in many shows over my childhood, but I was never so musically challenged until I began to learn the music of ‘The Secret Garden,’” added Miller. “Vocally, I feel I have grown as a singer during this show, pushing myself to learn new techniques and perform in ways I physically have not done before. I am so incredibly proud of the cast for learning such hard music and continuing to perfect it even more with each rehearsal.”

Beyond the hard work of putting together a musical, Miller is building friendships and having fun along the way.

“During the process of this musical, I have become close with many new people and built an even stronger bond with others I had already known,” she said. “Performing, dancing and singing with my cast mates has been such a fun process, from learning ballroom dancing to hip-hop-like moves.”

As opening night draws near, the cast and directors are eagerly anticipating the audience’s response.

“I’m beyond proud of all of the actors who have worked so far out of their comfort zones,” said Houston. “The cast is made up of both actors with long resumes and several making their stage debuts. Each actor is bringing something so special to this production.”

Added Miller, “I think the audience will enjoy the energy and quirkiness that goes into this musical, with dance numbers and comedy dispersed throughout the show. it brings such an ecstatic feeling to us actors, and I hope for the audience, as well.”

“The Secret Garden” features a script and lyrics written by Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Norman and a score composed by Grammy winner and Tony nominee Lucy Simon.

Tickets for the April 6-8 run of “The Secret Garden” at East Valley High School are $15. Tickets for the April 13-16 performances at the Mesa Arts Center are $17. Matinee and evening performances are available. Discounts are offered for teachers, seniors, veterans, first responders and students. Group discounts are also available. Purchase tickets at placesproductionsaz.com.