Arts & Entertainment

Hanford High banks on talent to pull off 'The Secret Garden'

Shane Shelby admits he'd rather be a goofball in a play than take on a serious role.

But serious is what he'll be when he portrays the somber Dickon in Hanford High's upcoming musical version of The Secret Garden, which opens Feb. 19.

"I found this musical to be harder than any other play I've been in but I'm enjoying the challenge of it all," Shelby said.

The show's director, Matt Leggett, hopes the challenge of tackling the difficult music of Secret Garden will give his students a good experience in musical theater before they head off to college.

"I really like this show," Leggett said. "And we had the singers to do it."

The musical centers on the gothic tale of a sour-tempered 10-year-old named Mary Shaw who lives in India. She survives a cholera epidemic that killed her parents and is sent to live with her eccentric uncle Archibald Craven at Misselwaithe Manor in England.

The manor is a huge stone structure packed with secrets, locked doors and mystery -- none of which the servants care to discuss.

To fend off boredom, Mary starts wandering the extensive grounds of the estate and stumbles upon a hidden door to a walled garden.

She finds a way to open the locked door, but what lies within the walls of the mysterious garden turns out to be as magical as it is spine-chilling, including a visit from the ghost of Mrs. Shaw who died of cholera in India.

"Even before I was cast in The Secret Garden I felt a strong connection to the show," said Katie Walsh, who portrays Mary's mother, Mrs. Shaw.

"Playing a ghost and a memory was definitely out of my realm of experience, and it's been an emotionally and physically taxing musical. But I'm grateful for every second."

The musical runs Feb. 19-20, 26-27 with a showtime of 7:30 p.m. There also will be a 2 p.m. matinee on Feb. 27. Tickets are from $8 to $10 depending on seat location.

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514;