Inaugural Lake Forest Theatre production presents full out musical The Secret Garden

Inaugural Lake Forest Theatre production presents full out musical The Secret Garden
(Left to Right) (BACK) Aaron Mann (Colonel Wright), Laura Martino (Mrs. Wright), Logan Aldrich (Lt. Shaw) Lauren Miller (Madame Holmes) Rachel Meloan (Claire Holmes) Natalie Rae (Alice) (FRONT) Sophie Kaegi (Sarah Shaw), Gemma Gardner (Hyacinth Holmes), Kailey Albus (Mary), Ashley MacDougal (Winifred Wright) Photo: courtesy of Dustin Rothbart & Lake Forest Theatre

It’s no secret that the director and the moving force behind the just hatched Lake Forest Theatre, Steve Malone had a dream. A big one.

After forty years in the business of acting, Malone had seen it all–especially how many actors are mistreated and taken for granted even through there’d be no show without them.

Malone’s dream came to fruition last night on the stage of the beautifully renovated John and Nancy Hughes Theater in downtown Lake Forest with his inaugural production of “The Secret Garden”–a musical adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 novel that premiered on Broadway in 1991.

Dustin Rothbart (Dickon), Kailey Albus (Mary)

Dustin Rothbart (Dickon), Kailey Albus (Mary). Photo: Courtesy of Dustin Rothbart & Lake Forest Theatre

The tale of 11-year-old Mary, an orphan who leaves India to live with her reclusive uncle and his invalid son on their Yorkshire, England estate was played out Broadway-style in Lake Forest with a 24-person cast, a 15-piece live orchestra, beautifully created period costumes (from Costume Designer David Lundholm) and a lovely set (David Gelnosky).

Nearly 400 actors, mostly from Chicago, auditioned for the show, which this time around is a non-equity production but in future, Malone plans to make the theater a full equity operation. In the interim Malone said the theater “will be amply resourced, produced at the highest level and feature both top-tier talent and a full orchestra.”

“The Secret Garden” came to life in Lake Forest with an orchestra prelude by the very capable Aaron Kaplan who conducts the orchestra stage right behind the curtains rather than in front of the stage which is more typical.

Malone, explained that he chose to do this because there is so much happening on stage that if he had placed the orchestra in front it would  be too busy. For those wanting to see the orchestra, they can view it on large video screen on the back wall of the theater.

The haunting tone of the show is set early on with “I Heard Someone Crying” (Lily, Mary, Archibald)–the theme, of course, referring to the spirits that inhabit the play along with the living.

The capable cast, fueled by a terrific singing ensemble, stars Kailey Albus with Carly Meyer as “Mary Lennox;” Edward Fraim (Design for Living at The Rivendell Theatre and WOZ: A Rock Cabaret at Stage 773) as “Archibald Craven;” Edward MacLennan (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Monty Python’s Spamalot at Stage 773) as “Dr. Neville Craven;” Elizabeth Mazur as “Martha;” Zachary Fewkes as “Colin;” Ken Rubenstein (Jesus Christ Superstar at Prairie Lakes Theatre and The Sound of Music at Brightside Theatre) as “Ben Weatherstaff;” Alison Stake as “Rose;” and Michelle McKenzie-Voigt (Beautiful Thing at Athenaeum Theatre Studio and H.M.S. Pinafore at Light Opera Works) as “Mrs. Medlock.”

For a delightful evening of theater, whether you live in the city, the west side, the south side or nearby on the North Shore, head to the John and Nancy Hughes theater with its adjacent free parking lot, comfortable 309-seat theater (cushy seats and lots of leg room), state-of-the-art sound system and outstanding nearby restaurants for this wonderful production of “The Secret Garden.”

Deerpath Inn English Room.

Deerpath Inn English Room.

Restaurants within less than a mile from the theater (with both Market House and Deerpath Inn an easy walk) include:

Market House on the Square features a comfortable sophisticated dining atmosphere with a rich selection of traditional American dishes. The space offers a choice of seating from the bar/lounge area, to a garden room, a dining room and an outdoor patio.

The Lantern Of Lake Forest is the go-to spot for casual family dining featuring great burgers, wraps, sandwiches, appetizers and a full bar.

Authentico Mexican Restaurant and Bar is where you’ll find traditional Mexican fare with a twist along with a great bar menu and, of course, refreshing Margarita’s. The restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating.

The Deer Path Inn is the place to go for upscale dining with old world charm played out in their beautifully renovated 85-year-old hotel.  Diners can head to the English Room for a special dining experience either inside in their elegant dining room or outside in their charming courtyard garden. A more casual atmosphere and menu is available in the pub. The Inn also offers afternoon tea.

Tickets for The Secret Garden: $49, or $120 for a 3-show subscription.  Call 847 604 4975 or online at  Lake Forest Theatre.

Where: John and Nancy Hughes Theater in Gorton Community Center, 400 E. Illinois Road, Lake Forest, IL

When: Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. now through July 2, 2016.

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

The theater’s inaugural 2016-17 season will continue in October with “Young Frankenstein” and concludes with “A Chorus Line” in March 2017. In addition, Lake Forest Theatre will host a masquerade ball on Halloween and a series of Christmas-themed musical performances in December.

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