Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
The Secret Garden
Also see Bill's review of A Different Perspective
Manatee Players fields a very strong cast, the three leads taken by three of the strongest voices regularly appearing in local community theater: Kenn C. Rapczynski as Archibald Craven, Steve Dawson as his brother Neville, and Sarah Cassidy as Lily. Their singing makes some of the lesser moments in the score seem better than they are. The roles of Mary Lenox and her cousin Colin Craven have been double cast; I saw Samantha Crawford as Mary and Judah Woomert as Colin on opening night. (Emma Devine and Sam Howells appear in these roles at alternate performances.) Both are excellent, Ms. Crawford a few years older than the character's nine years, but because of that her singing, very strong in the role. Mr. Woomert's singing has grown even stronger than a year ago when he inhabited two leading roles for different community theaters.
Kaliska Wiley as Martha and Cole Kornell as her brother Dickon are both excellent singers. Rodd Dyer has too little to do as Ben Weatherstaff, but is always a delight to encounter. Cory Woomert and Seva Anthony as Fakir and Ayah, Indian servants who appear as Mary's protectors throughout the story, show great stage presence. Cory Woomert has an important vocal solo in the early scenes which he handles very well. Lots of other familiar names from Manatee Players productions can be found in the cast, such as Meg Newsome, Jack Harkleroad, John Andruzzi, Eliza Engle, and Phil Croome, all of whom can be counted on to capably handle the small roles in a large musical.
Unfortunately, Manatee Performing Arts Center continues to be plagued by acoustical problems, making dialogue very hard to understand. Lyrics are projected somewhat better, or is that because I am familiar with the songs from the original cast recording?
The Secret Garden is capably directed and choreographed by Artistic Director Rick Kerby and musical direction is by Rick Bogner. Bogner and his band of five, Christine Allen-Bruno, Teri Booth, Victor Mongillo, Tony Bruno, and Donn Foster, are all extremely capable but this musical has an almost operatic score that could be well served by a larger ensemble.
Ken Mooney has designed beautiful settings and projections to tell the story in, lit by Joseph P. Oshry. The costumes by Becky Evans have the right 19th century feel and are a major asset. Kristin Ribble keeps a large cast in order as Stage Manager.
There is much to enjoy in Manatee Players' version of The Secret Garden. How about pairing the two leading men in City of Angels in the not too distant future, Dawson as Stine, Rapczynski as Stone?
Manatee Players presentsThe Secret Garden at Manatee Center for the Performing Arts through October 4, 2015, at 502 3rd Ave W., Bradenton; 941-748-0111, manateeplayers.com.
Director/Choreographer: Rick Kerby