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Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre The Secret Garden

By • Jun 29th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
The Secret Garden
Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre
CCBC-Essex, Baltimore, MD
Through July 3rd
2:25 with intermission
$20/$18 Seniors/$12 Children
Reviewed June 24th, 2011

The Secret Garden is the heart-warming tale of a young girl who lost her parents, a man who is still grieving over his dead wife, and a young boy who lives every moment waiting for his death. Both in spite of and because of the ghosts that surround their lives, the discovery of a garden and bringing it back to life, with the help of a few friends, brings this family back to life as well. Cockpit in the Court Summer Theatre does a truly exquisite job of bringing life to this script with believable and complex characters, haunting and intricate vocals, and an incredible vision of movement and design.

The blocking, movement, and choreography of this production was flawless. Tom Wyatt found a way to make perfect pictures with every scene without making any of the formation of those pictures look forced. His cast was solid in their rehearsal and knowledge and executed every move with precision and grace. Even the scene changes were quick and unobtrusive. At times, the grips were so unnoticeable that it seemed like the pieces were moving and changing on their own.

The set was beautiful and perfectly appropriate. The house was stark and gloomy in direct contrast to the beautiful, blossoming garden. The lighting was used expertly to indicate the changes in place, time, and mood. The costumes were incredible. They were beautiful, well-fitting, and period-appropriate. All of the ghosts also had double costumes: one in full color and one in white. The change in costumes worked to indicate the level to which the ghost was alive at that moment in the show. It really helped the audience understand what can be a little confusing about the role of the ghosts in the plot of the story. The blocking helped with this as well. The ghosts could never quite touch their living loved ones until the actual touching happened in one scene to result in a real emotional payoff. Throughout, set, lighting, movement, and effects (like smoke) would align perfectly to create these moments of sheer artistic brilliance that could just take your breath away. The overall direction and vision of this production was professional-quality. The beauty was further enhanced by the amazing vocal nuances and harmonies of every member of the cast. Even the ensemble would often sing in pairs or small groups and get a chance to show off each of their abilities to make difficult music soar. This was a real triumph on the part of Musical Director Elizabeth Fink.

The cast was headed by an absolute young star: Caitlin Deerin (Mary). Not only does she never cease to amaze with her incredible pitch and ability to harmonize at such a young age, she has a kind of warmth and maturity that just radiates. She is able to make believable every complex mood change and emotion that Mary struggles with throughout the musical. Playing her tormented Uncle Archibald, Steve Antonsen displays one of the most beautiful tenor voices. Those that are used to the Mandy Patinkin recording will not be disappointed; Antonsen has a similar ability to go into a haunting and rich, melodic falsetto. His acting performance was equally strong, and he did it all from a wheel chair.

The rest of the leads demonstrated the same mastery of bringing humanity to these complex characters and rich life to the score. Sherry Benedek (Lily) has a beautiful soprano and was graceful and dignified. Carol Anne Drescher (Rose) and Kevin James Logan (Albert) were both wonderful in creating a whole story for their two characters in a few interspersed scenes. Joey Hellman (Neville) was a sympathetic villain. He made his pain visible yet still just below the surface demonstrating nuance in his performance. Robyn Bloom (Martha) was a delightful ball of energy and powerful belter, and Kevin Connell Muth (Dickon) was charming; there was no doubt how the pair helped inspire the other characters. Matthew Liam Demetrides (Colin) was able to show the character’s misbehavior as a result of pain and still keep the character likable, all the while showing his growth to a happy and healthy young man. In theory, all of these characters could have been very difficult, but this cast made it look natural.

There was only one thing wrong with the entire production, and I am not sure why the director allowed this in a production that was otherwise beyond reproach. It was a serious, negative example of an actor putting his/her own needs ahead of the needs of the show. The production, script, and vision were all taken seriously. It was not over-the-top acting like you might see in a more classic Broadway musical comedy. It was real characters with real depth, and the times that the show was funny or light, it came out of the very realness of the performances. However, Kristen Cooley (Mrs. Winthrop) completely broke the mood of the show with her short scene. It appeared that the actress wanted to make her few lines stand out and bring laughter. So, she chose to play the character in a completely over-the-top, ridiculous, and unbelievable manner. She used a vocal quality and cadence that is unlike the way anyone speaks unless they are “acting,” and she worked to force a laugh rather than allow the humor of the scene to play in a natural way. It worked, the laughs that she solicited came. Some audience members even applauded when she left the stage. She was able to solicit the response that she wanted with her schtick, but it completely pulled the production out of the moment for her scene. It definitely cheapened the otherwise classy production in that one scene.

One glaring misstep, however, should not be enough to discourage audience members from checking out this otherwise truly impressive production.

Cast

  • Mary Lennox: Caitlin Deerin
  • Lily Craven: Sherry Benedek
  • Rose Lennox: Carol Anne Drescher
  • Albert Lennox: Kevin James Logan
  • Ayah: Sara Simpkins
  • Fakir: Will Poxon
  • Lt. Wright: James Ruth
  • Major Holmes: Kevin Connell Muth
  • Mrs. Holmes: Hillary Deweese
  • Archibald Craven: Steve Antonsen
  • Dr. Neville Craven: Joey Hellman
  • Mrs. Medlock: Judith Milgram
  • Martha: Robyn Bloom
  • Dickon: Kevin Connell Muth
  • Colin Craven: Matthew Liam Demetrides
  • William: Alex Meyer-Stokes
  • Jane: Paula Montrie
  • Mrs. Winthrop: Kristen Cooley
  • Mary Lennox (understudy): Isabel Gordon
  • Ensemble: Kristen Cooley, Hillary Deweese, Lauren Everd, Elizabeth Higbee, Madeline Meister, Alex Meyer-Stokes, Paula Montrie, & James Ruth

Production Team

  • Director and Choreographer: Tom Wyatt
  • Musical Director: Elizabeth Fink
  • Costume Design: James J. Fasching
  • Lighting Design: Kacey Coffin
  • Sound Design: John Suchy
  • Stage Manager: Mallory Pente
  • Technical Director/Set Design: G. Maurice “Moe” Conn

Disclaimer: Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has been involved in theatre in the state of Maryland and DC for most of her life. She has acted, directed, choreographed, stage managed, and held a million other odd jobs. She has a B.S. in English from Towson University, and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree to become a Reading Specialist. She is a Maryland State Certified English, Theatre, Elementary, and Mathematics Educator. After teaching English and Drama for many years, she now teaches 6th grade Language Arts at Magnolia Middle School in Harford County, Maryland. She wrote the curriculum currently used in Prince George’s County Public Schools for Drama I and Drama II. She now writes and directs plays and musicals for use in church.

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