By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on November 10, 2023.
Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization (LSCO) is staging the classic musical theater production “The Secret Garden” as its annual fundraiser opening tonight at the Yates Theatre.
Director of the production Fran Rude said “The Secret Garden” was done in Lethbridge back in 1993 and this production will be her last time directing.
“We did it here in Lethbridge with the Lethbridge Symphony back in 1993. And when we decided that this was going to be my last show – Ken and I have been doing fundraising concerts for the LSCO since 2015. I wanted to do just one more. And we agreed to do this one,” said Rude.
Rude said she had first seen “The Secret Garden” back in the 1990s with the original cast in New York and felt, “blown away by the beauty of the scope, and it’s a lovely story.”
Music director Ken Rogers shared the long history Rude and Rogers have had directing with each other.
“Fran and I have done shows together since 1986, so that’s 37 years. And we have been so lucky to work on such great shows over the years, dozens, that it still blows me away, that we could bring some of these shows to Lethbridge. And this is our last one,” said Rogers.
All funds raised from the production go towards LSCO senior programing. Tickets for the show, which runs tonight through Sunday, are available at the City’s ticket booths, online or by calling 403-329-SEAT.
Rogers expressed his enjoyment working with Rude and he believes the production will move the audience.
“It’s been super, super special, sort of bittersweet in a way. And it’s going so well. It’s going to be gorgeous. And it’s going to move people.”
Rude said most of the cast for this production were chosen ahead of time with the exception of the youth roles and one adult role.
“We did hold some auditions for the show, but only I think primarily for the children and one of the adult roles. But other than that, the cast were handpicked,” said Rude.
Rude continued voicing her hopes for the audience being touched by the production.
She believes “The Secret Garden” will give a different experience to the spectators.
“I hope it impacts them. They’re going to see there’s a lot of musical theatre going on between, I would say mid-October, until I think it’s around mid-February or March. But this is totally different than any of them. So, the audience is going to have a really different experience.”
Rogers said someone asked him if he thinks the audience will get confused by the different roles.
“On stage, people are either dead or alive. So, I responded when someone said, ‘Do you think it’ll go over their heads?’ I said if it goes over anybody’s head, it won’t go over their heart,” said Rogers.
Rude said she had spent more than a year planning “The Secret Garden” and she has been directing in Lethbridge since 1978 with previous experien in acting.
“There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into them. Because it’s not just the actors on the stage, it’s backstage, it’s all the volunteers, the set designer and the light designer and the costume designer and it encompasses a lot of talent,” explained Rude.
Rogers noted the cast consists of 19 members with 33 in the orchestra. He said “The Secret Garden” is an emotional, tearjerking play which brought tears to the eyes of the show’s pianist when he first saw it.
“It’s very emotional. Our pianist said when he first saw it in New York, decades ago, when it first opened, he said, ‘I started crying in number eight,'” said Rogers.
Rude said both herself and Rogers are directing this play strictly for fundraising.
“We’ve been directing for many years, both of us music and theatre. And for this, this is strictly fundraising for us. It’s very philanthropic,” said Rude.
Rogers said in closing, “it’s a gorgeous show. For me. It’s all about love.” He continued describing the different forms of love you see throughout the play.
“How to love someone how to receive love. And then along with that, all the obstacles and circumstances around love. Some people are angry, some people are jealous, some people are mourning, some people are disconnected, because they’ve lost,” said Rogers.