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Good timing: Prairie Fire Theatre to stage 'Secret Garden'

'The Secret Garden'

Abby Naden, a junior at University High School in Normal, has the title role of Mary Lennox in Prairie Fire Theatre's musical production of "The Secret Garden." Performances are 7:30 p.m. Aug. 2-3, at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 4, and 3 p.m. Aug. 5. Tickets can be ordered at



BLOOMINGTON — Prairie Fire Theatre has wanted to perform "The Secret Garden" for a while, and things have fallen into place for the theater to end its 20th season with a production of the musical.

Cristen Monson will direct the production that tells the story of an orphaned 11-year-old girl who returns to England to live with an uncle and cousin whose estate includes a magic garden. The tale of forgiveness and renewal is re-imagined by composer Lucy Simon and playwright Marsha Norman.

Musical director for the Twin City production is Lev Ivanov.

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 2-3, at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 4, and at 3 p.m. Aug. 5. Tickets are $20 adults, $15 senior and military, $10 students, and $5 preschool, with applicable fees. They are available at

The venue is Westbrook Auditorium in Presser Hall at Illinois Wesleyan University.

Prairie Fire Theatre "has been wanting to mount a production of 'The Secret Garden' for some time," said Monson, who is with Illinois State University's School of Theater and Dance.  "We finally had the right combination of production team and the space" at IWU, she said, adding, "Most young people know the story of Mary Lennox and The Secret Garden, but may not have seen this musical version."

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She said the production has a cast of 30 actors and will be accompanied by a 15-piece orchestra.   

Abby Naden is in the title role of Mary Lennox. Nole Jones portrays the sullen uncle, Archibald, while Madison Steele portrays Lily and Aric Diamani has the role of Fakir.

"I am so excited for the Bloomington-Normal community to see this show," said Monson. "The talent is amazing and it is a privilege to work with these actors. Aric Diamani is our choreographer and has brought authenticity to the Indian scenes and songs."

"His choreography is beautiful and it was important to me to have someone who knew the language so that we were not appropriating culture or creating movement that did not match what was being said on stage."

Naden, who will be a junior at University High School in Normal, is making her third appearance on the Prairie Fire Theatre stage; she previously appeared in "Oklahoma" and "The Most Happy Fella."

Jones is an actor and singer from Birmingham, Ala., whose recent roles have included "She Loves Me," "The Light in the Piazza" with Lyric Theatre Illinois, and "Ragtime" and "Show Boat" with the Utah Festival Opera. In May, Jones completed his master of music in voice performance at the University of Illinois at Urbana; he also holds degrees in both music and theater at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Monson noted that Diamani also is a professional actor, model, and choreographer, having worked for a variety of entertainment venues, talent shows, beauty pageants, fashion shows, charitable events, film, music videos in Chicago, New York and Bollywood.

Prairie Fire Theatre received a grant from the Prairie Community Foundation to offer free tickets to youth 12 and under (limit four per paying adult) at the matinee performances. 

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