TUTS presents The Secret Garden, Houston Family Musical
Humphreys School of Musical Theatre student cast as Colin
by Bernadette Verzosa
The Secret Garden
Sarofim Hall, Hobby Center, October 12 – 22
5th Avenue Theatre Age Recommendation: 7 and older
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With Houston still fraught from the floods caused by Hurricane Harvey, there may be no better time than now for the spiritual salve of The Secret Garden. The musical is showing at the Hobby Center through October 22, its profound restorative message likely to have an even more powerful impact on a city in duress.
“It is such a beautiful story. The effect and intention of the show is to heal all of us, the audience,” says director and choreographer David Armstrong.
The musical is based on the beloved children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The book was first published in 1911. Since then, several stage and film adaptations have been made. In 1991, the Broadway musical won three Tony Awards – 11-year-old Daisy Eagan played the starring role and became the youngest actress ever to win a Tony Award.
“There is a reason the novel has been popular for more than a hundred years with children and adults. It touches things that are very deep in everybody, in our collective unconscious, in our DNA of being a human being, which is about renewal,” says Armstrong.
The Secret Garden is especially popular with children and families because the main character is a ten-year-old English girl named Mary Lennox. She becomes an orphan and is sent away to live with relatives. Mary discovers a neglected garden and meets her sickly cousin Colin Craven. She nurtures both in a journey of transformation.
The beautiful music and elaborate sets help draw the audience into Mary’s world. For children, the most compelling scenes involve the two young cousins – from their initial meeting in Colin’s bedroom to their secret trips to the garden. “The show revolves around children in major roles. Mary Lennox is the star. Colin Craven is a supporting role, but significant. These kids are playing leads. So much of the show relies on them,” says Dave Clemmons, Dean and Director of Education for Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) Humphreys School of Musical Theatre (HSMT).
While many cast members are theatrical talent from across the country, a young Houstonian plays the role of Colin: ten-year-old Julian Lammey, who is a student at HSMT. “There’s something about Julian that directors fall in love with. He’s talented, of course, but when you engage him in conversation, you realize he’s unique,” says Clemmons.
Lammey’s challenges for the role included mastering an English accent and acting as an unruly child. “Colin is kind of a brat at the beginning of the show until Mary comes, and then he begins to calm down and not be so rude,” says Lammey. “I love working with all the professional cast members at TUTS and all the teachers at HSMT. “I’m really thankful that TUTS is giving me this part and opportunity to be in The Secret Garden. I would love to be a big Broadway actor one day.”
The Secret Garden is being refreshed with today’s new generation in mind for the possibility of a Broadway revival. “What they’re doing is examining – do we have something here that’s significant that would move forward? These various stops along the way are looking at rewrites: scene, song, stage action. It’s the time to have multiple looks and see how different audiences respond to it,” says Clemmons.
The show is a co-production with 5th Avenue Theatre Company of Seattle and Shakespeare Theatre Company of Washington, D.C. It was staged in those two cities before being presented by TUTS here in Houston. The show was searching for a boy who could play Colin for the Hobby Center performances and found the perfect young actor at HSMT.
“We are in a unique situation at HSMT. Being paired with TUTS, we can offer our students these professional production opportunities,” says Clemmons. “We’re not an agency but we receive calls from theaters and casting directors from around the country and around the world. They know that the talented kids are with us.”