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Family performs together in Flatwood's 'Secret Garden'

| Thursday, July 10, 2008

A touching children's story first published a century ago is retold on the stage in Flatwoods Productions' musical version of "The Secret Garden."

Based on the book written by France Hodgson Burnett, the musical set in 1906 is about a young English girl, Mary Lennox (played by Lexie Rohlf of Brownsville), who loses her parents in India to cholera and goes to live with an uncle she never has met in England. It is at his house where Mary discovers a hidden garden that unlocks a magical world for her and the people she encounters there.

"The Secret Garden" premiered on Broadway at the St. James Theatre in April 1991 and closed in January 1993 after 709 performances. The play won three Tony Awards in 1991, including Best Book of a Musical.

For Lexie, 13, an eighth grader at Brownsville Area Middle School, "The Secret Garden" is a family affair. Joining her on stage will be her parents, Tricia and Michael (cast as Archie and Lily), and her sister, Kara, 11, who plays Mary's male cousin, Colin. Tricia Rohlf says her son, Jonathan, 16, who also has performed in several Flatwoods shows, is portraying the role of Teen Angel in a production of "Grease" at Geyer Theater in Scottdale.

Tricia says the family has been performing together ever since her children were very young. In fact, she and her husband met while they were working in a play for State Theater in Uniontown.

The community theater environment is nurturing for families, she says.

"Good kids are busy kids," she says. "Any time we're involved in theater, it's multigenerational. Everybody gets together and enjoys being creative."

Although she has a small role in "The Secret Garden," she says the score is her biggest challenge, as the music is quite difficult to master.

Lexie says she enjoys acting with her family members. "They can give me tips, and we rehearse together all the time," she says.

Her character, Mary, in "The Secret Garden" is a 10-year-old girl whose circumstances and personality are opposite of her own in real life, she says.

"When I'm playing Mary, I am acting so sad and lonely throughout the show. I'm definitely not like that. It's a real stretch," she says.

The young actress says her first stage role was when she was 2 years old in a production of "Scrooge" with her parents. "It was just a run-on role," she says. The highlight of her acting career so far was when, at age 7, she played the youngest orphan, Molly, in a Civic Light Opera production of "Annie" starring Sally Struthers in Pittsburgh.

"It was an amazing experience," Lexie says.

For the Flatwoods production of "The Secret Garden," artistic director Ernie Watson has added a British touch to the optional dinner theater offered before each show. He says that guests will be invited to participate in high tea -- an English tradition -- complete with scones.

Additional Information:

'The Secret Garden'

Presented by: Flatwoods Productions

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday ; 6 p.m. dinner

Admission: $10; $9 for senior citizens and groups of 10 or more; $8 for children 11 and younger and groups of 20 or more

Dinner theater: $20; $19 for senior citizens and groups of 10 or more; $18 for groups of 20 or more; $16 for children 11 and younger. Reservations required for dinner

Where: Curfew Grange, Route 201 south, Flatwoods

Details: 724-366-7923

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