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PortWatch

May 9, 2013

Unlocking 'Secret Garden'

Firehouse revives musical based on classic children's story

Motherhood can change a lot of things for a woman, from how she sees the world to how she carries herself.

For Johanna Hoyt Kimball of Amesbury, motherhood has given her a new perspective on a role she first played 12 years ago. She and her husband, Derek, have three children, 8-year-old twins Samantha and Trevor and 5-year-old Bailey.

Hoyt Kimball portrays Lily Craven in “The Secret Garden,” which opens tonight and runs through May 19 at the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport.

“The story is more personal to her now,” said Anna Smulowitz, director of the show.

“It really is a lot about mom and what it’s like to lose your mother and what we carry from our mothers forever,” Hoyt Kimball said. “I have a different perspective on that now, having experienced motherhood and being a partner to someone.

“I feel like I sing the music in a new way, or certainly experience in it a new way.”

“The Secret Garden” is a Tony Award-winning musical based on the 1911 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. With book and lyrics by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon, it premiered on Broadway in 1991.

While many remember the story of Mary Lennox, a young orphan who discovers a neglected garden, as a classic children’s tale, the musical changes some of the plot details and puts more of an emphasis on the adult characters of Lily; her widower, Archibald; his brother, Dr. Neville Craven; and her sister, Rose, who is Mary’s mother.

“In the novel ‘The Secret Garden,’ there is mention of those people who have died, and the musical really takes those characters and really incorporates them into the story,” Hoyt Kimball said. “There are very often ghosts floating around the stage.”

“The themes might be difficult for very young children,” Smulowitz said, who added that the story is timely in light of the recent Boston Marathon bombings.

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