SAXTONS RIVER—With a cast ranging in age from 12 to 71, the Main Street Arts musical production of “The Secret Garden” has begun its intensive rehearsal schedule in preparation for opening night at the Bellows Falls Opera House Friday, Oct. 25.
“We have a tremendous group of actors, some with years of experience and others just getting their feet wet, but they are all dedicated to making this a great show for our loyal local audience,” said David Stern, the show’s director, along with musical director Ken Olsson, in a news release.
In the role of the story’s main character, Mary Lennox, is Teya Bryan of Acworth, N.H.
Although only 12 years old, Bryan has some serious acting credits, most notably in the River Theater production of Oliver! and this past summer’s Great River Theater Festival production of H.M.S. Pinafore, not to mention an appearance in a grade-school production of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
A busy eighth-grader with school work and volleyball on her docket, Bryan is looking forward to facing the challenge of learning to sing harmony and taking on a different persona for a while.
“I like making people feel what you’re trying to portray,” in your character, she said.
Joining Teya as the crippled Colin Craven is Brattleboro Middle School student Eben Wagner, himself no stranger to the theater.
Wagner, who will turn 14 in October, has had roles in Rags and James and the Giant Peach at the New England Youth Theatre and was recruited for this role by Stern.
“I’ve never been to the MSA theater, but I want to meet new people,” he said. “This will be different from what I’ve done before [in youth theater] because I’ll be working with actors of different ages.”
At the other end of the age spectrum, with many years of amateur and professional stage experience, is Falko Schilling of Saxtons River, who acted for many years at the Weston Playhouse under the stage name Eric Castle.
Schilling also founded and shepherded the Saxtons River Playhouse for 17 years, offering start-up gigs to scores of aspiring actors and providing the community with top-flight entertainment.
In Garden, he plays the role of Ben Weatherstaff, the grouchy, grizzled caretaker of the grounds of Misselthwaite Manor who discovers Mary and Colin in the garden.
Fresh from his role this summer in the Festival’s Pinafore, Schilling said he appreciates a role more suited to his age and physical abilities that still allows him to be involved.
Playing Colin’s father and Mary’s uncle, the sad Archibald Craven mourning the loss of his wife, Lily, is Gavy Kessler of Dummerston, himself a veteran of recent MSA productions of Jesus Christ Superstar and Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Morganna Ekkens (Lily) appears as one of the five ghosts who haunt Archibald, along with Ron Bos-Lun (fakir), Sam Holmberg (Rose), Victor Brandt (Albert Lennox), and Erica Yuengling (Mary’s nursemaid).
Other cast members with a local connection include Libby McCawley of Putney as the housekeeper, Gary Clay as Major Shelley, Heidi Lauricella as Mrs. Winthrop and Bellows Falls Union High School graduate Sam Empey, who studied musical theater at the University of New Hampshire.
The Secret Garden will run two weekends, with performances Friday, Saturday, and Thursday, Oct. 25, 26, and 31 and Friday and Saturday, Nov. 1 and 2, at 7:30 p.m., with matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 26 and 27, and Saturday, Nov. 2.