The Secret Garden blooms
under Music Circus tent Aug. 2-8

Reviewed by Joe Blenkle/Sacramento Stage & Theatre


garden2.jpg (35752 bytes)
Archibald Craven (Robert Cuccioli) accepts his niece Mary (Caitlyn Caughell) into his heart as the ghost of his wife Lily (Teri Bibb) looks on approvingly in the Music Circus production of THE SECRET GARDEN.

 

    Last time Robert Cuccioli was in town he was the star of JEKYLL AND HYDE. He wowed the audience in his dual role of J&H in the musical's pre-Broadway tour. Now Cuccioli is back">

The Secret Garden blooms
under Music Circus tent Aug. 2-8

Reviewed by Joe Blenkle/Sacramento Stage & Theatre


garden2.jpg (35752 bytes)
Archibald Craven (Robert Cuccioli) accepts his niece Mary (Caitlyn Caughell) into his heart as the ghost of his wife Lily (Teri Bibb) looks on approvingly in the Music Circus production of THE SECRET GARDEN.

 

    Last time Robert Cuccioli was in town he was the star of JEKYLL AND HYDE. He wowed the audience in his dual role of J&H in the musical's pre-Broadway tour. Now Cuccioli is back, starring as Archibald Craven in the Sacramento Music Circus' fourth production of the year, THE SECRET GARDEN.

    I missed THE SECRET GARDEN when it last played under the tent in 1994 and before that in 1992 when it opened the Broadway Series. So the 1999 production marks the first time I've seen this particular musical.

 

Cast of The Secret Garden   Lily - Teri Bibb
  Mary Lennox - Caitlyn Caughell
IN COLONIAL INDIA, 1906
  Fakir - Mark Sanders
  Ayah - Christy Morton
  Rose (Mary's mother) - Cristin J. Hubbard
  Capt. Albert Lennox (Mary's father) - Paul Woodson
  Lt. Peter Wright - Michael Susko
  Lt. Ian Shaw - Michael Dotson
  Major Holmes - Scott K. Ivey
  Claire (his wife) - Stephanie Lynge
  Alice (Rose's friend) - Stephany R. Simonelli
AT MISSELTHWAITE MANOR, NORTH YORKSHIRE, ENGLAND, 1906
  Archibald Craven (Mary's uncle) - Robert Cuccioli
  Dr. Neville Craven (his brother) - Peter Reardon
  Mrs. Medlock (the housekeeper) - Adinah Alexander
  Martha (a chambermaid) - Leah Hocking
  Dickon (her brother) - Alec Timerman
  Ben (head gardner) - Bob Dorian
  Colin Craven - Josh Breslow
  Jane - Helena Hultberg
  Betsy - Stacy Brush
  Timothy - Ben Johns
  Mrs. Winthrop (the headmistress) - Stephanie Lynge

 

    THE SECRET GARDEN is the story of a young girl named Mary Lennox (Caitlyn Caughell). It's the early 1900s and Mary lives in India with her mother Rose (Cristin J. Hubbard) and her father Albert (Paul Woodson), a Captain in the military. After an outbreak of cholera kills everyone in the house except for Mary, she is sent off to live with her Uncle Archibald (Robert Cuccioli) in a large house in England.

    The house is filled with spirits - including those of Mary's parents and Archibald's late wife Lily (Teri Bibb). And it's filled with many secrets - including a garden that has been locked away behind a high wall since the death of Archibald's wife.

    It's Mary that finally brings the house and garden back to life and releases her loving Uncle Archibald from the torment he has suffered since his beloved Lily died.

    Caitlyn Caughell absolutely steals the show as the precocious Mary. Not only can the 12-year-old act and sing, she has a tremendous on-stage presence that is a pleasure to watch throughout the show. Look in the dictionary under adorable, and undoubtedly you will find her picture there.

    Josh Breslow who plays Archibald's crippled son Colin - who is cured by Mary's friendship and the magic of the garden - plays well opposite Caughell. The pair engage in some classic child-type arguments that delighted the crowd.

    Cuccioli, of course, was terrific as Archibald, despite sporadic equipment problems which appeared to be caused by the actor's long hair rubbing over the end of his microphone when he turned his head. Ah, live theatre! For those of us who saw him in JEKYLL & HYDE, you couldn't help but hear and catch glimpses of J&H in Robert's voice and movements on stage. Some of Cuccioli's voice inflections absolutely send chills down your spine. Let's hope he returns to Sacramento again soon.

    After appearing in THE MOST HAPPY FELLA two weeks ago, Leah Hocking returned in THE SECRET GARDEN as Martha, the chambermaid. Leah's voice seemingly gets better and better and she absolutely won the crowd over with songs like "A Fine White Horse," and "Hold On," as well as several duets with other members of the cast. The kids stole the show, of course, but Hocking was right up there with Cuccioli as far as the reception she got from the crowd at the end of the production. Interestingly enough, Hocking is also a J&H veteran, having played the role of Lucy on Broadway.

    THE SECRET GARDEN is the Music Circus' annual "kids" show, where all children 12 and under are half price. It's a noble idea, but it brings up one of my rare MC gripes. It's hard enough for most of the adults in the tent to see the stage sitting in the low-slung chairs. I can't imagine a small person being able to see much. My 11-year-old is a perfect example. He heard more than he saw, especially considering the fact that the persons in front of his chair were sitting on stadium seats they brought along - raising them up at least an extra four inches. MC improvements are on the way, so I hear. Hopefully improved seating is on the agenda!

    THE SECRET GARDEN performs in the Music Circus tent on the corner of 15th and H Streets through August 8. Monday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range in price from $23-$40. For ticket information call (916) 557-1999, or visit the Music Circus box office at 1419 H Street.
    Next up for the Music Circus is 42ND STREET (Aug. 9-15), starring Alyson Reed, Patrick Quinn and Holly Bosil.

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