April 09, 2009

‘The Secret Garden’ coming to McLeod Theater

by Vincent Rhomberg

Secret Garden

The Secret Garden -- The Department
of Theater at Southern Illinois
University Carbondale brings the
Broadway musical "The Secret Garden"
to Carbondale April 16-19. Shown here
are, clockwise from lower left corner,
Danna Pantzke as Martha Sowerby;
Jonathan Hughes as Dickon Sowerby;
Skylar C. Drummond as Mary Lennox;
and Isaiah Herzog as Colin Craven.
(Photo provided) Download Photo Here

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A “Secret Garden” grows on the McLeod Theater stage at Southern Illinois University Carbondale April 16-19.

The Department of Theater and the School of Music join forces to bring the Frances Hodgson Burnett story of redemption, inner healing and the power of a positive mindset for four performances. Thursday through Saturday performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Sunday’s performance is a 2 p.m. matinee. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for senior citizens and $6 for students. Tickets are available the day of the performance at the McLeod Theater Box Office or in advance by calling 618/453-3001.

Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote “The Secret Garden” 100 years ago. The original Broadway production debuted in 1991 and ran for 709 shows, and won three Tony Awards, including Best Book and Best Scenic Design.

This production features sets by guest artist Laurencio Carlos Ruiz, costumes by Kathryn Wagner, and lighting by Mark Varns. The production elements come together to keep the visual and story-telling elements in constant motion.

“The story is about rebirth, life that grows from what is seemingly dead,” J. Thomas Kidd, director and choreographer, said. “We tried to capture that in the production. We wanted to see the production grow.”

The inspirational story focuses on young Mary Lennox, an orphaned girl sent to live with her widowed uncle. Mary discovers a neglected and locked secret garden, formerly kept by her uncle’s deceased wife, Lily. Mary sets out to restore and bring new life to the garden and the household. Her efforts and the story of her uncle Archibald’s release from the past touch anyone who has ever known loss or disappointment.

Ellen Conn, dramaturge for “The Secret Garden,” and her assistant, Jenna Brown, offer a free pre-show lecture on April 19 beginning at 1:30 p.m. in the Dean’s Conference Room, adjacent to the McLeod Theater lobby. They will discuss the “three promises” playwright Marsha Norman believes are central to the play.

The production features University students and some younger actors from the community. Taking the lead role of Mary Lennox is 15-year-old Skylar C. Drummond, a freshman at Johnston City High School. Carbondale sixth-grader Isaiah Herzog plays Mary’s sickly cousin Colin Craven.

Here is a complete cast list, by hometown:


Bloomington -- Erik Lehmkuhl, freshman in musical theater, as Lt. Wright

Carbondale -- Jonathan Hughes, senior in theater, as Dickon Sowerby; Isaiah David Herzog, sixth-grade student at Unity Point Elementary School, as Colin Craven.

Carterville -- Travis Westbrook, senior in musical theater, as Timothy/Servant

Collinsville -- Katelyn Ratliff, freshman in musical theater, as the Maid

Edwardsville -- Jason Miller, junior in theater, as Ben Weatherstaff

Hawthorne Woods -- Peter Chudyba, senior music major, as Uncle Albert Lennox

Johnston City -- Skylar C. Drummond, freshman at Johnston City High School, as Mary Lennox

Manteno -- Sabreena Cardreva, freshman theater and English education major, as Ayah

Marion -- Callie Meiners, junior in theater, as Mr. Medlock

Mundelein -- Mike Johnston, junior in theater, as Shelley/Servant

Murphysboro -- Timothy Jackson Wessel, freshman in musical theater, as Lt. Shaw

Park Ridge -- Rob Riddle, graduate student in opera, as Neville Craven

Pinckneyville -- Stacie McDaniel, a junior in theater, as Mrs. Shelley

Princeton -- Emily Smith, senior in musical theater, as Claire Holmes

Quincy -- Steve Looten, Jr., senior in theater, as Major Holmes


Wilmore -- Carl Herzog, sophomore in vocal performance and theater, as Fakir


Little Falls -- Danna Pantzke, graduate student in music, as Martha Sowerby


St. Louis -- Casey Levan, senior in musical theater, as Betsy

North Carolina

Wendell -- Landon Chase Sutton, graduate student in opera, as Archibald Craven

South Carolina

Irmo -- Leigh Ann Murdaugh, graduate student in opera, as Lily Craven


Pittsburgh -- Karen Massey, graduate student in opera, as Alice/Mrs. Winthrope


Lethbridge, Alberta -- Andrea Gedrasik, graduate student in opera, as Rose Lennox