Ghosts, music, a beloved children’s classic. MLT creates special night out for folks

Jacob Berkner as Colin and Abigail Watson as Mary in Macon Little Theatre’s musical production of the classic “The Secret Garden.”
Jacob Berkner as Colin and Abigail Watson as Mary in Macon Little Theatre’s musical production of the classic “The Secret Garden.” Special to The Telegraph

It’s a venerable children’s literature classic being bought to stage by a talented cast and crew equal to the musical — and emotional — demands of the production.

That’s Sylvia Haynie’s take on the Macon Little Theatre’s presentation of “The Secret Garden” beginning Friday with seven performances through March 31 at MLT’s playhouse on Forsyth Road.

Haynie is MLT’s artistic manager and is directing “The Secret Garden.”

“We were looking for something classic, something moving that was based on literature for this production,” Haynie said. “So often, theater echoes film these days, which is wonderful, but we wanted to reach for something from a different place, from time-tested literature.”

Set in the early 20th century, “The Secret Garden” first appeared as a magazine serial in 1910 by Frances Hodgson Burnett and then in book form in 1911. It has been adapted for numerous successful stage and screen presentations with MLT’s version coming from a script and lyrics written by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon that first appeared on Broadway in 1991.

“I think it features powerful, emotional acting and a beautiful, lush score,” Haynie said. “There’s tremendously beautiful music that’s quite demanding of singers, but we have some great singers and phenomenal soloists.”

Haynie pointed out two in particular.

“That includes DeAnna Laree, who plays the young adult female lead in the play, Lilly, the ghost who helps Mary find her way into the secret garden,” she said. “DeAnna is a voice major at Wesleyan College. Then there’s Abigail Watson, who plays young Mary. She does a marvelous job and our audiences will remember her playing Annie and being just magnetic on stage. It’s wonderful seeing someone her age mature on stage. I also think it’s also magical for young people to see her, someone their size and age, and realize what they might do themselves. It can spark something. This is a great show for families.”

Haynie said “The Secret Garden” has a relatively small cast for a musical but features four performers new to the MLT stage. She said together in “The Secret Garden,” cast and audience travel through a story that’s very much about sorrow and grief but comes to a place of healing and redemption.

“Many people know the book, know the story and cherish it deeply,” Haynie said. “It has some very moving moments that the musical brings out beautifully. Those who know the book will love it, but so will those who are totally unfamiliar with it.”

As a special feature, Haynie said the production’s lighting design was created specially to enhance and differentiate between the story’s ghosts and those living who they help find their way to healing. Haynie’s son, J.P. Haynie who acts professionally in New York, traveled home to Macon to create the special lighting for the show.

“The Secret Garden”

Where: Macon Little Theatre, 4220 Forsyth Rd.

When: 8 p.m. March 22-23 and 28-30; 2:30 p.m. March 24, 31

Cost: $20 adults, $15 seniors, $10 students

Information: www.maconlittletheatre.org