If you have seen a production at ACT of Connecticut in Ridgefield, then you are familiar with the level of talent that the theater employs. ACT of CT’s phenomenal casts consist of professional actors whose credits read like a regular “who’s who” of Broadway and has become one of the most highly respected regional theaters in our area, even receiving a Grammy nomination last season. Aside from producing the highest caliber shows, ACT of CT is equally committed to inspiring and nurturing young aspiring thespians. ACT of CT’s Educational Programs provide training and opportunity which has proven to be invaluable for participating students.
The final show of ACT of CT’s 5th season will be The Secret Garden (running May 18th through June 11th). This three-time Tony Award winning musical will be one of ACT of CT’s largest productions and promises to enthrall audiences with its breathtaking score, magical storyline, and stunning scenic design. Daniel C. Levine, ACT of CT’s Artistic Director says, “The Secret Garden is one of the most beautiful shows ever to be produced on Broadway and the show’s music is second to none. For this production, we are implementing a new technology on our stage – audiences can expect to see something brand-new. It’s going to be stunning!”
ACT of CT’s production of The Secret Garden boasts an impressive 22 actors. With Broadway credits ranging from Wicked, Les Miserables, The Sound of Music, and Jesus Christ Superstar, this company of highly experienced actors upholds ACT of CT’s mission of “Bringing Broadway to Ridgefield”.
The original 1991 Broadway production starred TV, film, and theater legend Mandy Patinkin as Archibald, alongside Tony Award winner, Rebecca Luker as Lily. Both Patinkin and Luker received glowing reviews for their performances in the show, including Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations, but it was a relatively unknown 11-year-old from Brooklyn who dazzled audiences and garnered the preponderance of the production’s critical acclaim. Daisy Eagan became the youngest actress ever to win the Tony Award for Best Performance by A Featured Actress for her portrayal of Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden, the show’s central character. The role is a complex one, and Daisy Eagan’s depiction possessed a depth, emotion, and subtlety that even the most seasoned professionals work years to master.
There are two principal roles for young actors in The Secret Garden – Mary Lennox and Colin Craven – a young boy who has been locked away for most of his life. The Secret Garden is a musical that is not widely produced in regional theaters because it can often prove challenging to cast these younger roles. Finding young actors between the ages of 10-13 who can handle the show’s sophisticated material is a daunting task.
For four years, ACT of CT’s youth educational opportunities have included masterclasses, lessons, teen conservatory programs, summer performance camps, internships, and apprenticeships. The theater has brought on a wide array of professional teaching artists to work with its students and the program has expanded significantly.
When one of the theater’s main stage productions calls for a young actor, ACT of CT’s students are given the opportunity to audition. To date, ACT of CT’s productions of Evita, Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar, and The Secret Garden all called for a few children to be a part of the cast. Those youngsters selected are given the rare opportunity to star opposite some of the industries most skilled performers.
In the upcoming production of The Secret Garden, Jasper Burger and George Aronow – both 11 years old – will be sharing the role of Colin Craven. The two boys will be rehearsing and performing alongside the professional acting company and will be an integral part of the production.
“I am so excited to play the role of Colin,” says Jasper Burger. “This is a fun role for me because Colin shows a range of emotion, from throwing temper tantrums to singing about the connection that he wishes he had with his father and deceased mother. I loved the book, and I can’t wait to work with Daniel Levine and the amazing cast members to bring this musical to life.”
George Aronow has been involved with past ACT of CT’s educational programs – having participated in the theater’s wildly popular summer camp program in 2021. His previous participation in ACT of CT’s programs has helped him prepare for his upcoming role in The Secret Garden.
George’s parents Hilary and Mike Aronow say, “Our son had an exceptional experience participating in ACT’s summer program. It gave him the skills and confidence that he needed to shine on stage, and he has continued to grow and thrive. George is beyond excited about this incredible opportunity to appear in The Secret Garden. This is such a special and rare opportunity, and we are grateful to ACT for these amazing experiences.”
Sharing the stage with Broadway credited talent must certainly feel both exciting and intimidating for the show’s three young performers. ACT of CT gives them a foundation that sets young actors up for success. •