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Mark Philbrick
Christopher Higbee, playing the part of Archibald Craven in "The Secret Garden" at Hale Center Theater Orem, steps into the garden with Mary Lennox, played by Mabel Wheeler (MWF cast).

OREM — "The Secret Garden," a story of loss, discovery and the magic that comes from learning to care for people and plants, is returning to the Hale Center Theater Orem stage.

The Broadway musical based on the classic book by Frances Hodgson Burnett was first produced at Hale Center Theater Orem in 2000.

According to executive producer Anne Swenson, everyone involved has been anxiously awaiting the time that they can produce this hauntingly beautiful musical again.

A dozen years later, the time is here, she said.

The timeless story of love and healing and the beautiful melodies are the same, but are given new life by a talented local cast, led by local favorites Dallyn Vail Bayles, Korianne Orton Johnson, Rachel Lynn Woodward and Christopher Higbee, and directed by Neal Johnson.

Mabel Wheeler and Maggie Scott share the role of Mary Lennox, a spoiled orphaned child whose life changes in her uncle's home after her parents die and she is sent to live with her uncle Archibald Craven.

She discovers an abandoned garden on the mansion property, befriends the crippled, neglected son of Craven and basically turns everyone's life around.

She finds secrets everywhere in the 1885 English manor house, which hasn't known laughter and joy for years, and helps unlock hidden treasures in the house and relationships.

The show premiered on Broadway at the St. James Theatre in April 1991 and closed in 1993 after 709 performances.

The original Broadway production garnered numerous accolades, including seven Tony Award nominations, two Tony awards and a Drama Desk Award for outstanding music.

Daisy Eagan, who played the lead role of Mary and won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, is still the youngest person ever to win a Tony. She was 11 at the time.

Though the show was originally set in 1906, HCTO’s costume designer MaryAnn Hill requested that the setting be changed to 1880. She felt that the beauty and gentleness of the show could be greatly enhanced by dressing the women in the fully bustled styles of the earlier era.

Director Johnson said he didn’t want to do the play as it’s been done before. He wanted to make it fresh and relevant.

To accomplish that, he has focused on the beauty of the interaction between the various characters, including the ghosts which he intentionally made real to the children.

"I went kind of heavy-handed with the ghosts,” he said. “She (Mary) can actually see them and then in the end they are released.”

The show came together fairly easily, he said, with most of the credit going to the actors especially the two girls who play Mary.

“This show relies on these little girls,” Johnson said. “And they are so gracious. They do so well.”

Johnson said the show is a good one for families and youngsters as it deals with the family nucleus and the positives that come from good choices.

“I’m really glad Hale chose to do this in the spring because it’s all about rebirth,” he said.

Swenson said the production has a strong spiritual message of families and afterlife. The “living” characters of the show are watched over and gently guided to happiness by those that have “passed on.” The bitterly lonely Archibald tells the newly orphaned child, Mary, “They’re not gone, they are just dead.”

If you go:

What: "The Secret Garden"

Where: Hale Center Theater Orem, 225 W. 400 North

When: Monday-Saturday April 19 through June 2 with 3 p.m. Saturday matinees and weekday matinees for school-age children April 24, May 1. (Tickets $4 per child.)

How much: $16-$20 ($4 less for children)

Tickets: HaleTheater.org or 801-226-8600

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: [email protected]