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Arizona Broadway Theatre enchants audience with ‘The Secret Garden’

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“The Secret Garden,” a musical based on the 1911 children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, runs through Sunday, May 11, at the Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 W. Paradise Lane, Peoria, Ariz. After the matinee performance on Saturday, April 19, Madeline Alfano and Christian Bader, the actors filling the roles of Mary Lennox and Colin Craven on that day, visited with Examiner to talk about ABT, their roles and their aspirations.

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Both actors appear mature and poised beyond their years. “I’ve been told that I’m a 25-year-old man in a 12-year-old body,” noted Christian.

Madeline, also 12, said she auditioned for the part of Mary, the orphan girl sent from India to live with her embittered uncle Archibald and his invalid son, Colin, in Yorkshire, because “she is a lot different than my personality. I like being someone I’m not.” She added, “Mary Lennox, she’s kind of misunderstood because her parents died. She’s a sour little girl because of that, but no one really thinks about what she’s been through.” Madeline enjoys working with adults and has previously appeared at ABT as Judy in “Annie.” One thing she especially likes about “Secret Garden” is the “great music.” But that’s not all. “Everything is great,” she said.

Christian agrees with her. “I love this show,” he said, adding that it has a “great message.” Christian has previously appeared at ABT as Kurt in “The Sound of Music” and Young Tarzan in “Tarzan.” “I just love the staff and ABT,” he said. “I love working with these amazingly talented other cast members because there’s so much talent here.” He sees Colin as “a kind of selfish boy, but he is depressed because he feels his father hates him and his mother died when he was born.”

Madeline and Christian are unanimous when it comes to one thing: they both want to be on Broadway. And doing film would be an added bonus.

In addition to these two amazing young actors, ABT has assembled a superb cast. The actors’ talented performances, combined with Jennings Trieloff’s inviting, ethereal sets, Kelsey Ettman’s authentic period costumes, and the haunting music of the Lucy Simon score and lyrics of Marsha Norman all make for another magical theater-going experience at ABT. It’s top-notch, as always.

Trisha Hart Ditsworth charms as Martha, the cheeky maid. Her voice soars and with it, our spirits, when she sings “Hold On,” encouraging Mary to finish what she’s started.

Kaitlynn Kleinman, as the blond ghost of Lily, sings with the voice of an angel and looks like one as well.

In the role of Archibald Craven, Matthew Charles Thompson’s voice is as strong as his body is weak. If his cane couldn’t hold him up, the strength of his voice might. Jesse Berger, back for his 12th appearance at ABT, takes the role of Dr. Neville Craven. When the two team up to sing “Lily’s Eyes,” there aren’t many dry eyes in the house.

In the garden, Mary encounters the crusty Ben, played by Tony Blosser, and the engaging Dickon, played by Jordan Wolfe. Both are making their ABT debut.

It should be noted that because of the demanding roles, Madeline Alfano alternates with Lizzy Tuten and Morgan Goldberg as Mary, and Christian Bader alternates with Asher Angel and Tommy Cimato as Colin.

To see an entire cast list, along with photos of each, click here.

Purchase tickets for evening and matinee performances of “Secret Garden” at azbroadway.org or by calling the box office at (623) 776-8400.

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