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Fall season 2010 September 15, 2010

Family matters in 'The Secret Garden' by Marshall Civic Players Nov. 5-14

Special ticket deal for first weekend

By Morris Arvoy

To celebrate familial ties within the community, Marshall Civic Players is offering a great deal during the first weekend of its new show, "The Secret Garden": buy one full-price adult ticket, and receive a free ticket for a child 15 or younger. The ticket deal is a wonderful--and cost-efficient--way to see this beautiful and haunting Tony Award-winning musical.

In more ways than one, families of all shapes, sizes and styles form the centerpiece of "The Secret Garden." Based on the beloved children's book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, "The Secret Garden" tells the amazing story of Mary Lennox, a young English girl who is sent to live with her uncle at a sprawling but ramshackle English country estate. Her experiences--including her discovery of a magical secret garden--forever change the lives of her new family and friends.

The musical extravaganza features something for all ages, including a captivating story, an engaging cast of characters, some of Broadway's most beautiful music, inventive set design and period costumes, and even a chorus of ghosts. The show ran for nearly two years on Broadway, and the book has inspired several movies.

'It's more fun with family'

Since becoming involved with Marshall Civic Players just eight short months ago, it has amazed me how many families are involved in putting on these great productions: husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins... sometimes the whole brood. For many folks, MCP is their second family.

"The Secret Garden" is coming alive with several local families helping to stage this magical story of redemption and renewal. This may be no more evident than with John and Cathy Duyck and their two kids, Colin and Noah, who are all appearing onstage together for the first time. Cathy and her sons last appeared in MCP's "A Christmas Carol," where she played Mrs. Cratchit, with Colin as Peter Cratchit and Noah as Tiny Tim.

"I love being able to do the play with them," said Cathy (Mary's mother Rose). "When we found out 'The Secret Garden' would be an all-family production we thought, 'Oh cool!' It's a fantastic experience. I am so glad both of the boys like theatre because it was always a love of mine.

"Colin and I knew right up front we were going to audition for this show, but Noah thought he was too young. I then offered up John because he sings. Plus, last year during 'A Christmas Carol' John was like a sad little puppy because we were gone all night and he felt left out!"

John (Mary's father, Albert), Noah (ghost child) and Colin (Colin Craven) agreed that being in the show has been a good experience.

"It's pretty nice," Noah said. "It's more fun to do it with my family."

'A gift to Marshall'

For Vanessa Blackford, a native of Marshall and a graduate of Marshall High School, appearing in the show as the haunting matriarch Lily has been enjoyable as well as cathartic. Blackford is appearing onstage with her husband, Chris (Dickon), whom she met when they were theatre majors at Western Michigan University. Their third appearance together onstage does not include their wedding, which took place in 2008 at the Franke Center for the Arts, home of "The Secret Garden."

"Being the wife, I really get proud every time I watch Chris work his magic on stage," she said. She added that the family aspect of "The Secret Garden" is significant in another way.

"For me, 'The Secret Garden' is very important because of my history of losing my father at a young age--being able to watch the rebuilding of a family and telling this story of hope and renewal," Blackford said. "My goal with this show is to give a feeling of closure for everyone who has lost someone close to them."

"I really do believe that everyone can be touched by this show," Blackford said. "It's a gift to Marshall."

'This show illustrates the love of parents for their children'

"I love doing shows with my daughter!" declared "Secret Garden" costumier Irene Pizzimenti, who has worked on three of the last four MCP productions with her daughter Christina (Alice). Their other recent collaborations include "See How They Run" and "Seussical Jr."

Irene said she enjoys doing shows with Christina because it gives the pair a unique place where they can relate to each other.

"It's something that I really share only with her because my other daughters don't have that same theatrical bent," Irene said. "Besides the fact that I am so incredibly proud of her--I'm just amazed at the gift that she has."

"I've never not worked on shows without my mom," Christina added. "Theatre is just the thing we do together. That's why I like working on this show--it perfectly illustrates the never-ending love parents have for their children, no matter what obstacles they face."

'We all have a common bond'

Before "The Secret Garden," Tim Lake (Dr. Neville Craven) has not been in a show with his brother Randy (artistic director/Major Shelley) since high school. They were last onstage together when Randy was a senior and Tim was a freshman at Marshall High School and the school produced "The Diary of Anne Frank" and "Once Upon a Mattress." Tim noted with a laugh that he played Randy's father in the latter.

"It's been wonderful being directed by my bother," he said. "I have been pleasantly surprised at his ability to translate what he sees in his head to what he wants onstage for 'The Secret Garden.' He's been great!

"We have a young and talented cast, and people I really like." Tim went on. "I'm just hanging around with my friends every night, people I really like. We all have a common bond--a love of theatre."


This marks the first show I have ever been in with my own kids, Benjamin Arvoy and Emma Arvoy (ghost children), who attend Walters Elementary in Marshall. After doing lots of shows in high school and college, I didn't do theatre for more than two decades until watching Emma as an orphan in "Annie Jr." several months ago. After some strong encouragement from MCP stage favorite David King, I got involved again. Echoing everyone in this piece: the ability to do theatre with your family is priceless. The kids have been enjoying it, too.

"I am really loving the show!" Emma wrote in my script one night last week.

"I love being a ghost!" Ben said with the wicked laugh he has been rehearsing for the play's first scene.

Special ticket offer: For the first weekend only (Nov. 5-7), buy one adult ticket, get one free ticket for anyone 15 years or younger. Performances are at Marshall's Franke Center for the Arts Nov. 5 and 6 at 8 p.m., and Nov. 7 at 2:30 p.m. and Nov. 12 and 13 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 14 at 2:30 p.m. For more information about "The Secret Garden," call Marshall Civic Players at 269-781-3335 or visit www.marshallcivicplayers.org.

Magical 'Garden' Opens Nov. 5, 2010
Morris Arvoy

A group of talented and enthusiastic actors and crew members are busy at work on the Tony Award-winning family musical “The Secret Garden,” which kicks off Marshall Civic Players’ 62nd season Nov. 5-14, 2010, at the Franke Center for the Arts in Marshall.

Based on the beloved children’s book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, “The Secret Garden” is the magical, musical journey of a young English girl who is sent to live with relatives in England after being orphaned in India. The book and lyrics are by Marsha Norman, with music by Lucy Simon.

MCP newcomer Hailey Jamann of Ceresco plays Mary, the strong-willed girl who transforms the dreary lives of those around her after her parents, Rose (Cathy Duyck) and Albert (John Duyck), succumb to a devastating cholera outbreak. Mary is sent from India to Misselthwaite, a rambling, neglected English countryside estate, to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven (Jeff Stierle).

“I am very much enjoying working on this show!” said Jamann, a seventh grader at Endeavor Charter Academy in Battle Creek. “It’s a family story—it’s humorous and mysterious and it has great music. In the beginning, it’s a bad thing when Mary’s family dies and she comes to live in England. But by the end, it’s a good thing—they all come together like a fairy tale. It’s just happily ever after!”

Still mourning the death of his beloved wife, Lily (Vanessa Blackford), Archibald spends his lonely days and nights pining for Lily while his younger brother, Dr. Neville Craven (Tim Lake), has been given the task of managing the estate and raising Archibald’s sickly son, Colin (Colin Duyck), whom he has confined to bed since birth.

Mary’s arrival breathes new life into the old home as she meets a host of eccentric household staff members, including the housekeeper Mrs. Medlock (Donna Daines), the chambermaid Martha (Brittany Lighthall), and the gardener Ben (Don Goben). Exploring her new world, Mary’s interest is captivated by a forbidden locked garden. Martha’s brother, Dickon (Chris Blackford), helps her find the key and acts as an interpreter of the many natural wonders found within.

But Mary’s past is never far away. Throughout the play, she is accompanied—some might say haunted—by the ghosts of her family and friends from India. This “Dreamers” chorus plays out scenes from Mary’s memory and gently influences and supports her as she embarks on her new life. The Dreamers include her parents, her beloved chambermaid Ayah (Emily McCaleb), their houseman Fakir (Michael Dixon), Lt. Holmes (Tim Nolan) and his wife Claire (Juliana Gilger), Mrs. Shelley (Tamara Hicks-Syron), Lt. Shaw (Isaiah Potter), Alice (Christina Pizzimenti), Betsy (Sarah Stiner, who also is the understudy for Mary), William (Sam Anderson, who also is the understudy for Colin), and a group of mischievous Ghost Children (Benjamin Arvoy, Emma Arvoy, and Noah Duyck.)

As the play progresses and Mary and her new friends begin to restore the overgrown garden, tensions arise between Archibald, still mourning Lily, and Neville, who wants to send Mary away to school because he believes she is a disruptive influence. But Mary and the ghosts—especially Lily—start to win Archibald over and the transformation of Misselthwaite from its drab and dark state into something vivid and lively becomes a reality.

Lighthall, echoing the optimistic spirit of her character, Martha, encourages families to see the show and reacquaint themselves with a favorite story from many a childhood.

“It’s a great show and musically it absolutely beautiful,” she said. “It’s a story that everybody knows to some degree. It’s fun to become familiar with it again in this musical setting, where you are seeing it come to life and hearing it sung so wonderfully—rather than just imagining it.”

“The Secret Garden” opened on Broadway in 1991 and played for 709 performances, garnering three Tony Awards.

Randy Lake is artistic director of MCP’s “The Secret Garden,” with musical direction by Elena Solero, sets by Paul Rauth and Tim Nolan, and costumes by Irene Pizzimenti. Morris Arvoy is producing.

Performances are Nov. 5 and 6 at 8 p.m., and Nov. 7 at 2:30 p.m. and Nov. 12 and 13 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 14 at 2:30 p.m. For more information about “The Secret Garden,” call Marshall Civic Players at 269-781-3335 or visit www.marshallcivicplayers.org.

Archive Editions Available:

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July 12, 2017 NEWSCUES Addams Family
February 28, 2017 NEWSCUES Pride and Prejudice
February 08, 2017 NEWSCUES Drowsy Chaperone
October 18, 2016 NEWSCUES White Chistmas Coming!
July 07, 2016 NEWSCUES 2016 Annual Dinner
July 15, 2015 NEWSCUES Annual Dinner
June 23, 2015 NEWSCUES Footloose! MCP Youth Summer Show
April 21, 2015 NEWSCUES Of Mice and Men
March 18, 2015 NEWSCUES Of Mice and Men - Auditions
February 24, 2015 NEWSCUES Spelling Bee
October 20, 2014 NEWSCUES A Nice Family Gathering
August 20, 2014 NEWSCUES Four Weddings and an Elvis Update
July 30, 2014 NEWSCUES MCP Junior Youth Theatre presents Aladdin Jr.
July 17, 2014 Four Weddings and an Elvis Four Weddings and an Elvis Auditions
April 08, 2014 NEWSCUES DEATHTRAP! and Upcoming Season
September 24, 2013 NEWSCUES Delightful Quarantine
August 21, 2013 NEWSCUES Tintypes
July 11, 2013 Hairspray Hairspray 2013
May 06, 2013 Midsummer Night's Dream Midsummer Night's Dream
February 27, 2013 NEWSCUES Jesus Christ Superstar
October 29, 2012 NEWSCUES You Can't Take It With You Opens Nov 9
October 22, 2012 NEWSCUES You Can't Take It With You
April 21, 2011 NEWSCUES Much Ado about Much Ado
January 10, 2011 NEWSCUES Pirates of Penzance has been cast!
December 23, 2010 NEWSCUES Pirates Rule the Waves!
September 15, 2010 NEWSCUES Fall season 2010
September 17, 2009 NEWSCUES Fall 2009
June 29, 2008 NEWSCUES Summer Edition
October 10, 2007 NEWSCUES A Christmas Carol Preview
February 11, 2007 NEWSCUES The King and I
May 04, 2006 NEWSCUES Spring 2006 Edition
March 01, 2005 NEWSCUES Volume 5-1, March 2005

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