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'The Secret Garden' debuts at Red River high school

Rebirth, redemption and the healing power of love are central themes of "The Secret Garden," the musical being presented this weekend at Red River High School.

Ella Dostal (right) as Mary Lennox, befriends an ailing Colin, played by Collin Polasky, who believes he is dying in "The Secret Garden," a play about the healing power of love. (Photo by Joshua Komer / Grand Forks Herald)
Ella Dostal (right) as Mary Lennox, befriends an ailing Colin, played by Collin Polasky, who believes he is dying in "The Secret Garden," a play about the healing power of love. (Photo by Joshua Komer / Grand Forks Herald)

Rebirth, redemption and the healing power of love are central themes of "The Secret Garden," the musical being presented this weekend at Red River High School.

The play "is very operatic in style-there's a lot of beautiful singing," said Connie Sherwood, the show's director, noting the abundance of instrumental and vocal ensembles and solos.

The 25-member cast is "telling the story in harmony."

"The Secret Garden" is the tale of "an angry, unhappy, lonely little girl" in India who is orphaned after her wealthy, British parents and all of their servants die in a cholera epidemic, Sherwood said.

The girl, Mary Lennox, is sent to England to live in a huge old house on a moor with an uncle she has never met who's dealing with his own grief because his wife has died and his son is dying.

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"It's the story of healing. Everyone is grieving from their own losses," Sherwood said. "It's very spiritual."

She chose "The Secret Garden" to showcase the talents of Red River's singers. The play is based on a children's novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett that was published 1911.

Made into a musical stage production that premiered in 1991 in New York City, it won several Tony Awards. The production introduced ghosts into the story; they were not in the original book.

Set at the turn of the past century, the story revolves around Mary, who moves to the moors of Yorkshire to live with her Uncle Archibald Craven, who is in deep grief over the death of his wife. Mary discovers her aunt's garden, which he has locked and abandoned in his mourning.

Mary befriends her sickly young cousin, Colin, who is kept medicated and confined to his room. She brings him to the garden where fresh air restores his health.

"Mary brings the garden back to life," Sherwood said.

She "comes alive" as her garden does-so, too, do her cousin and uncle. As they tend to something outside their own sorrow, they find joy and new life.

Senior Ella Dostal plays Mary. Also playing lead roles are seniors Brady Ritland as Uncle Archibald, and Lauren Craig as Lily, the ghost of Archibald's wife.

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They will be familiar to those who attended the SPA production of "Mary Poppins" last summer at Red River High School. In that show, Dostal played Mary Poppins; Ritland was Bert.

Colin is double-tasked by Noah Severud, a ninth-grader, and Collin Polasky, an eighth-grader at South Middle School in Grand Forks.

Seth Brandl, a junior, plays Dr. Neville Craven, Archibald's brother.

If You Go:

• What: "The Secret Garden."

• Where: Red River High School (old theater), 2211 17th Ave. S., Grand Forks.

• When: 7 p.m. today and Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday.

• Tickets: $10 for adults, $6 for child/student (K-college) and seniors (55 and older). For reservations, go to www.spacompany.org or call (701) 746-2411.

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Related Topics: THEATERGFH INSTAGRAM
Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
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