English Robins Arrive at VRHS’ ‘Secret Garden’

Valley Regional Musical Productions' newest cast member, Mr. Robin, finds his perch during a recent rehearsal with fellow cast member Megan Ryan.

There may be several inches of snow and ice on the ground, but it's looking more like spring at Valley Regional High School as preparation for the musical production of The Secret Garden hits its final phase. Construction of garden walls, trees, and plants is close to being finished, while the final cast member, Robin, has arrived on set and is getting comfortable in his new surroundings.

As the production's title suggests, nature plays a key role in the story, presenting new challenges in casting and staging. In early January, Valley Regional Musical Productions Director Ingrid Walsh issued an open call for a puppeteer to provide guidance and assistance in filling the important role of Robin, an English robin who lives in the secret garden and imparts many life lessons.

New Haven artist Linda Wingerter answered that call, and with artistic mastery, created two puppets with wing and head movements that can be manipulated by cast and crew members through the use of strings. Both robins share the one role so Robin can quickly appear in different places on the stage. A detailed illustration of Wingerter's creative process can be found at http://paintedbooks.blogspot.com.

Based on the classic novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett and set in Victorian England, The Secret Garden is an emotionally deep story of struggle and survival told through the lyrics/book by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon, sister of Carly Simon.

With a total of 116 students participating, including 76 cast members, 34 crew members, and six orchestra pit musicians who are partnered and being mentored by 15 professional musicians, the production's large vocal ensembles, varied set designs, and challenging mix of music promise to be well tended.

Tickets for each of the four performances scheduled for March 14 to 16 are $10 and are on sale now at Valley Regional High School in Deep River, Gather in Ivoryton, Toys Ahoy! in Essex, Celebrations in Deep River, and The Wheatmarket in Chester. More information is available at the school's website at www.vrhs.reg4.k12.ct.us or by calling the school's office at 860-526-5328.

Valley Regional Musical Productions' newest cast member, Mr. Robin, arrives at rehearsal for The Secret Garden at Valley Regional High School. From left (back) are cast members Megan Ryan, Shelby Talbot, Kristen Kilby, and Annie Brown; in front is puppet artist Linda Wingerter.
Valley Regional Musical Productions' newest cast member, Mr. Robin, arrives at rehearsal for The Secret Garden at Valley Regional High School. From left (back) are cast members Megan Ryan, Shelby Talbot, Kristen Kilby, and Annie Brown; in front is puppet artist Linda Wingerter.
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