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It all sounded like a good idea... until I got into the room where I had to show off my dance moves.

It had been over 20 years since I had been on stage, and I was worried about teaching myself to sing again when I should have been more worried about dancing. In the audition, our choreographer started stringing dance moves together so fast my brain wasn’t following, and I was sure my 40+ year-old body would struggle even more.

Let’s back up to how I got into this position, I blame my family and peer pressure. My daughters had seen a Decatur Underground post about auditions for one of our favorite shows, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Both of my kids knew they would try out, but they wanted me to do it with them. I was hesitant to perform again, but they all teamed up and had my wife join in to pressure me into doing it (spoiler alert for the blog, I was so happy I joined the show). I worked on my song a bit, and we were ready to go try out for the musical.

I am in the audition room, laughing at the thought of dancing like I am being shown, but I did my best, and the choreographer, directors, and leaders of the Decatur Underground Theater were all nice and very supportive. This is something that I learned that day and keep learning every rehearsal or DUT event. The cast and crew of DUT welcome anyone that wants to be in their troupe with open arms and makes people nervous about performing feel like they're part of the family.

I did this show to be on stage with my family but also gained a new one in the process.

I would wholeheartedly tell anyone thinking about trying out for a show with Decatur Underground Theater to take the leap and audition.

Sharing the stage with my children was an experience I will not forget and something I hope they remember as they grow up. I also loved that I got out of my comfort zone and performed in a musical after 20 years of just being a spectator. We are in the middle of rehearsals for The Secret Garden The Musical right now, and I am having the time of my life trying to get better at this whole singing and dancing thing.

If you always wanted to be in a show, don’t miss trying out for the next musical, I am sure Bye Bye Birdie will be just as great of a time.

Ryan Rinchiuso, Cast Member: The Secret Garden - Major Holmes

copyright 2023 Decatur Underground Theater Company

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At first, DUT started with a singular goal - stage well-known Broadway musicals... in Decatur.

Other guiding principles would immediately follow:

  • give back to the Decatur, Illinois, community...

  • provide high-quality entertainment (musical theatre, as it were)...

  • provide opportunities for people who may have never considered getting into community theatre (or had tried to and couldn't), and...

  • do so at an affordable price.

With Steve and me having decades of experience in staging rock shows, we knew vocal talent when we saw (or heard) it. We also had tons of expertise in music production, staging, promotion, and planning. But we were hanging our proverbial hats on finding singers (what we knew best) - the best we could find.

One the other hand, theatre things like putting casting, blocking, costuming, choreo... in other words, all things community theater - that was a different matter. But we would not be deterred. We'd just wing it. Still, when it comes to community theater, we were smart enough to know that acting is harder than it looks (especially when the actors are good). One can learn acting, blocking, and the things that go along with community theatre. We'd focus on what we knew best - the music part of musicals (i.e.,the vocals).

That left us with a realization and decision that would end up guiding Decatur Underground Theater (DUT) for the years to come.... it would be far easier (and lead to greater success) if we looked for people who could sing (have vocal skills) and teach them the theatre stuff than try (hopefully) to find people with theatre experience who can sing (or (maybe) teach them how to sing).

The pool of people locally who can sing is ten times larger than people with community theatre experience who maybe can sing. Decatur has an incredible community theatre scene with DUT, Theatre 7, Midsummer Moon, Pipe Dreams, and Milikin. But musicals is a specialty within theatre.

Clearly (for DUT) when casting, it would be (and still is)... Singing first - acting second.

It's turned out to be a winning formula for DUT since 2010.

The formula has proven wildly successful and had led to some incredible vocal and stage performances in DUT musicals. We've learned a lot along the way. It didn't seem possible, considering how great the earlier shows were, each show gets better and better musically. People consistently approach us at the end of a show and ask, "Where did you guys find your cast? Are some of them from Chicago?"

Uhmm, nope. The entire DUT cast are all from right here in Decatur.

Their response is commonly an incredulous, " Seriously???!"

Indeed. Seriously.

We are blessed big time with the amount of amazing vocal talent right here in the Decatur area. It's astounding. DUT and local Decatur talent are bringing incredible Broadway-style musical performances (the acting is great too, btw) to Decatur residents... at an affordable price.

Check it out for yourself when Decatur Underground brings The Secret Garden (The Musical) to the Decatur Civic Center on the last two weekends of March 2023. (get tickets here)

The vocal talent in this show is off the chain. It will blow your socks off.

It's already obvious that DUT's production of The Secret Garden The Musical will build on our past success and be a wildly awesome show you won't want to miss - especially if you ever wonder: what is there to do in Decatur, IL? The cast and directors are working hard. The Secret Garden will be the greatest DUT show yet.

Tim Revis, Co-founder & Trustee - Decatur Underground Theater

DUT is Decatur's Premier Musical Theater Company, bringing Awesome Musical Theater to Decatur, IL.

copyright 2023 Decatur Underground Theater Corporation

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Mary Lennox in the Secret Garden Musical

Since the release of the book The Secret Garden in 1911, the story's main character, Mary Lennox, has captured readers' attention in what would become known as a classic of children's literature.

No doubt, other characters in the story are very compelling, but Mary garners the most attention. Rightly so, you would say, because she is the story's main focus. But modern representations of any story risk minimizing some character(s) while bringing more light and focus to others. It's also not uncommon for the entertainment industry to introduce narratives and plots that skew the original focus and intent of the author (Frances Hodgson Burnett, in this case).

Musical adaptations can sometimes be guilty of such injustices.

We should consider ourselves fortunate that this has not been the case with The Secret Garden. The story and the characters have consistently remained true to Ms. Burnett's original writing.

The Secret Garden was first made into a film (now lost) in 1919. MGM released The Secret Garden in 1949, mainly in black and white, with scenes set in the garden in Technicolor (they did something similar with The Wizard of Oz).

But the 1993 film by Francis Ford Coppola brought the story to modern viewer's attention. It starred Kate Maberley as Marry Lennox. It was the 8-year-old English girl's first big role (she'd later star in almost 30 other films). This Mary Lennox is the one that captured people's hearts by her embodiment of the character.

IOW - Kate Maberly rocked Marry Lennox.

But, wait, Tim.... we love musicals. What about The Secret Garden the Musical?

Great question. I love musicals too, btw.

The Secret Garden was first produced as musical theatre in 1986. But what we know and love today as The Secret Garden The Musical first made it to the stage on Broadway in 1991. It would get nominated for seven Tony Awards, win Best Book of a Musical and Best Featured Actress in a Musical for 11-year-old Daisy Eagan as Mary. It ran for 709 performances at the St. James Theatre in NYC.

Secret Garden rehearsals are in full swing, and already obvious that Decatur Underground Theater's 2023 'Mary' will be no less spectacular than 1993 Kate. Interesting factoid: DUT's Mary's real name is Lily. Our Lily/Mary (9) is nearly the same age as Kate Maberly when she starred in the film.

Just like Kate/Mary - DUT's Lily/Mary is going to kill it.

See for yourself. Check it out at the Decatur Civic Center Mar 24-26 and Mar 31-Apr 2.

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