Fitton Playhouse series kicks off with ‘The Secret Garden’

How to go

What: The Secret Garden

When: Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m., Fri., Oct. 14; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sat., Oct. 15; and 2 p.m. Sun., Oct. 16.

Where: Fitton Family Theater, The Fitton Center for Creative Arts, 101 S. Monument Ave., Hamilton.

Cost: Tickets are $20 for Fitton Center members and $25 for non-members. Event sponsor: Jim and Emily Fuhrman and series beverage sponsors: MillerCoors and G&J Pepsi-Cola Bottlers, Inc.

More info: or call (513) 863-8873

The Fitton Center for Creative Arts will begin this season’s newly created Fitton Playhouse series with a production of “The Secret Garden.”

Ian MacKenzie-Thurley, executive director of the Fitton Center, said the Fitton Playhouse series will feature high-quality, professional productions that are engaging and affordable.

“We wanted to start with something big. Doing a fully-staged, full-scale musical theater production with ‘The Secret Garden’ is a fantastic way to kick things off,” MacKenzie-Thurley said.

The production will be the largest musical ever produced in the recently renovated Fitton Family Theater, he said.

“Here in Hamilton, we have a wonderful resource in the Fitton Family Theater. With the renovation and expansion that has been recently completed, I really wanted to make the most of that resource,” MacKenzie-Thurley said.

“Our goal is to make sure we are bringing quality theater, dance, drama and musical entertainment to Hamilton,” he said.

“I think it’s important for people to see what we can produce right here in Hamilton, and in the Fitton Family Theater.”

With “The Secret Garden,” the children’s literature classic is re-imagined in a fresh musical style by composer Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. The show addresses a number of different themes from grief, loss and mourning to healing and new life. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the musical’s Broadway debut.

Produced and directed by Ryan Heinrich, with choreography by Emily Brinkman and instrumental direction by Betsy Horton, the show will feature a cast of sixteen local performers, and a band of eight musicians, along with well-appointed staging, lighting and sound.

“The Secret Garden” stars Alyssa Hart as Mary Lennox, Olivia Yokers as Lily and Matt Neal as Mary’s reclusive Uncle Archibald.

Neal, a Fairfield High School alumni and a 2007 graduate of Wright State’s Acting and Musical Theatre Program, said he is excited about Fitton Playhouse’s inaugural production.

“This is a dream role for me,” Neal said. “I saw this as an opportunity, and I wanted to hop on that boat, and make this as successful as we could. It will provide an outlet for actors like me, and for students to be involved with professional artists, and to be able to put on some great theater in our area.

“Our hope is to develop the Fitton Playhouse into Butler County’s first professional repertory company with resident artists and national talent from places like Chicago and New York. We want to bridge the gap for performers and audiences alike between Dayton and Cincinnati, performing Broadway classics, as well as a series for new works and theatre education,” he said.

“This is an enormous opportunity to support live theater in Butler County,” Neal said.

Other talented cast members include Cy Wood (as Dr. Craven); Talia Noelle Zoll (Rose); Allison Edwards (Martha); David Manegold (Albert); Colin Shimrock (Dickon); Mark Reuter (Ben); Lyndall Murray (Mrs. Medlock); Sam Harper (Colin); Sami Shaaban (Fakir); Jeff Sams (Major Holmes); Bridget Lorenz (Claire); Scott Christian (Lt. Wright) and Kathryn Zajac-Albertson (Alice).

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