In production of the musical, The Secret Garden, based on the 1911 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Mary Lennox, a young girl raised in India, finds herself suddenly orphaned and sent to England to live with her uncle on a sprawling estate.
In the book, Mary is described as ugly, sickly and foul-tempered, the blame for which lies not with her but her parents, particularly her mother, whose treatment of her borders on cruelty.
graduate Alexis Kinney, who plays Mary, is neither ugly, sickly nor foul-tempered. She's also not 12 years old.
“It's a challenge because I'm a very happy person,” Kinney said. “Mary's not very happy at the beginning. And I'm 23 playing 12 years old. But I love watching the way that the other actors work; I'm learning so much.”
As Archibald Craven, Peter Lockyer brings a great deal of stage experience to the audience. He has appeared on Broadway in Les Miserable, Miss Saigon, La Boheme and more. Although Lockyer has never performed in The Secret Garden, the Broadway production impressed him.
“I didn't grow up with the book,” Lockyer said. “I saw it in 1991 on Broadway. The music is some of the most beautiful music in theatre.”
As is typical in theatre, actors have their own take on what the play is about in relationship to their characters.
“The show is heavy on metaphor," Lockyer said. "The people are going to get different meanings. It's about forgiveness and many things. It's such a great journey to take.''
Kinney sees a close relationship between her character's journey and the journey of the garden as it blooms from an untended, unloved space into a flowering mass of life with just a little care and nurturing.
“It's about human companionship and how the garden is a parallel for Mary's life,” Kinney said. “She never had a childhood. She was always alone when she grew up in India. She sings a song, 'The Girl I Mean to Be.' That's what the garden means to her. It's what she wants in her life.”
Both actors feel that something magical is happening, not only on stage, but with the cast.
“I know everyone says this, but the cast is actually, truly, sincerely amazing,” Lockyer said. “I haven't seen this talented of a cast assembled before. It's going to be a gem. I think I've cried about six times.”
Lockyer will also perform in The Three Tenors: From Broadway and Beyond, a concert featuring Broadway show tunes along with performers Anthony Holds and Ed Juvier in a one-night-only show Aug. 15.
Kinney's future is slightly more dramatic. The recent college graduate and St. Louis actress will be moving to New York, a big move in any actor's life.
“I've learned so much,” Kinney said. “I'm ready but a little scared.”
Visit the Stages St. Louis website to see showtimes and buy tickets.