published Friday, September 13th, 2013

REVIEW: CTC's 'Secret Garden' a thrill for all ages

By Debbie Hale
Sarah Grayce Crouch, left, and Ethan Fell portray Mary and Colin in "The Secret Garden."
Sarah Grayce Crouch, left, and Ethan Fell portray Mary and Colin in "The Secret Garden."
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

To open its 90th season, the Chattanooga Theatre Company has chosen "The Secret Garden," the Tony Award-winning 1991 Broadway musical. Mixing fine performances with music and choreography, CTC has fashioned a production that fills the stage with song and dance in a musical celebration of talent.

"Secret Garden" tells the story of the orphaned Mary Lennox, a sickly young lady who comes to live with her Uncle Archibald, and 13-year-old Sarah Grayce Crouch is quite commanding in the role of Mary. Strong dramatically as well as vocally, Sarah fills the challenging role with confidence and flair.

Uncle Archibald Craven is given an intense performance by Josh Ruben, who immerses himself in the character, creating the physical and mental imagery necessary. Ruben's vocals embrace and emit the empathy and sentiment of the melancholy.

Carol VanWinkle Doucette is quite moving as the late Lily Craven. Doucette and 11-year-old Ethan Fell, making his CTC debut as Colin Craven, both grab the spotlight with their strong vocals.

Other noteworthy cast members include Mark Oglesby as Dr. Neville Craven, Kendra Gross as Martha, and Jonathan Goff as Dickon. The three deliver strong vocal performances in a demanding musical score.

Led by musical director Mike Lees and choreographer Jessica Laliberte Bowman, CTC's "Secret Garden" is a production that should be enjoyed by all ages.

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