The Broadway community once again opened its arms to the students of John A. Coleman Catholic High School of Hurley, New York. The school, which has gained a reputation for some of the best young musical theater talent in the Hudson River Valley, produced The Secret Garden in honor of the 20th anniversary of the show's Broadway debut in April of 1991. The cast of Coleman Musical Theater's production recently traveled into New York City to meet members of the original Broadway cast.
The Broadway production of The Secret Garden starred Mandy Patinkin, Rebecca Luker, Alison Fraser, Daisey Eagan, and John Babcock, was nominated for 6 Tony Awards (including "Best Musical") and 13 Drama Desk Awards (including "Outstanding Musical"). The acclaimed family musical has a lush score by Lucy Simon and book and lyrics by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Marsha Norman. The show is a heart-warming musical adaptation of the classic 1911 children's novel of the same name which tells the tale of a young girl orphaned in India and sent to live with a stern widowed uncle in England, and how a garden re-unites the family.
Original Broadway cast members Mandy Patinkin, Rebecca Luker, Alison Fraser, Daisey Eagan, and John Babcock welcomed the Coleman cast at Ripley Grier Studios to talk about their recollections of the original Broadway production and to hear the students sing selections from the show. Mr. Patinkin, an international stage, film, and television star, was the original Che Guevarra in Evita, the original George Seurat in Sunday in the Park with George, as well as the original Archibald Craven in The Secret Garden, among many other theater triumphs. Television series he has starred in include Chicago Hope, Criminal Minds, and Dead Like Me. Among many films his most iconic role is that of Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride. Ms. Luker, a legendary Broadway soprano and three time Tony nominee, has been compared to Julie Andrews and Barbara Cook by the New York Times. Ms. Luker's Broadway credits (beside Secret Garden) include Christine in The Phantom of the Opera, and lead soprano roles in the Broadway revivals of The Music Man, The Sound of Music, Showboat, and Nine. She has just completed four years in the Broadway cast of Mary Poppins. Ms. Fraser, a two time Tony nominee, has appeared on Broadway in shows such as Romance/Romance and the recent revival of Gypsy with Patti LuPone. As a solo singer she has performed at Carnegie Hall, The White House, Town Hall, and Symphony Space, among others. Ms. Eagan, who at 11 became the youngest female ever to win a Tony Award (for The Secret Garden), has appeared in films such as Tony n' Tina's Wedding and Losing Isiah and on television on Without a Trace, The Unit, Ghost Whisperers, and Numb3rs.
The Coleman High School Musical Theater program was selected in the fall to be one of the first high schools in the nation to be granted the rights to perform Andrew Lloyd Webber's masterpiece The Phantom of the Opera which ran to sold out houses in November. The Broadway cast of Phantom took interest in the Coleman production and invited the student actor's to a performance of the show, then backstage to their dressing rooms, and a tour of the backstage technical areas of the Majestic Theater. The Coleman production of Phantom received coverage in three Broadway World stories.
The Coleman Musical Theater's 20th anniversary production of The Secret Garden gave 6 sold out performances in April, exactly 20 years from the opening night on Broadway.
Photo Credit: Peter Ressa