‘The Secret Garden’

By Stella Haffner   |   February 21, 2023
Sadie Brickman Reynolds will portray Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden, playing at the Ahmanson.

Ask me what our greatest Montecito exports are and I’ll say: Spanish-style tile, Pierre Lafond wine cake, and talent!

Although born and raised in Los Angeles, today’s Dear Montecito feature has strong roots in Montecito that have inspired her to take up theater. Eleven-year-old Sadie Brickman Reynolds grew up hearing about her mother’s career in dance, her aunt’s screenwriting, her grandmother’s work in canvas and sculpture, and thought it was time to throw her hat in the ring. Having recently been cast as Mary Lennox in her first professional theatrical production, The Secret Garden playing at the Ahmanson Theatre, Sadie is paying homage to her Montecito roots. 

Sadie’s grandparents, Paul and Jennifer Brickman, moved to Montecito in 1983. Their two daughters, Nora (Sadie’s mother) and Mattie, attended MUS and Santa Barbara Middle School together before parting ways to attend Santa Barbara High and Cate, respectively. During their childhoods in Montecito, Nora and Mattie got their start in the creative arts. With encouragement from their mother Jennifer, a former dancer herself, the girls attended their first ballet class at age 5. While Mattie would eventually branch off into writing – starting with a weekly column in Montecito Journal – Nora continued on the dance path, earning her BFA at the Boston Conservatory and entering a successful career as a performer and choreographer. 

Clearly, there was a strong aptitude for the arts in this family, something director Warren Carlyle could sense when Sadie walked into the room for her Secret Garden audition. One week later, Sadie received exciting news: She was in the small pool of girls who had been offered a callback. 

Although Sadie is a veteran performer, with experience in cartoon voice-over work and having starred in many non-professional stage musicals, the demands of callbacks for a professional production such as The Secret Garden were something of a gauntlet. After performing her prepared material, Sadie was asked to read additional scenes and learn new songs on the spot, which she explains was a way for the casting team to see whether she knew how to take direction. Before callbacks were over, they had one last challenge for Sadie: “We’d like to hear that again. But how about this time, you try a British accent?”

As it turns out, this was no curveball for Sadie Brickman Reynolds.

“Because I’ve been watching The Great British Bake Off since I was little, I have heard the accent and just sort of spoke it,” says Sadie. “Of course, they asked me to sing with a British accent, which I’d never done before.” But this didn’t pose much of an obstacle for Sadie, either.

Although completely composed in the audition room, Sadie says that the casting decision caught her off-guard. 

“When my mom told me, I was crying, I was so excited,” says Sadie. “The whole thing is really hard to describe. I was just so happy to be able to audition because whether or not I got the part, I knew that would be an experience to remember. So before I found out, I was really at peace with whatever had happened. I was just so happy I got to audition. But getting the part has really added to my excitement.”

In the following months, Sadie channeled this excitement into getting to know her new character, Mary Lennox. She has read three different versions of The Secret Garden and has attended afternoon tea with co-star, new friend, and bona fide Brit Susan Denaker. All this research has allowed Sadie to get to grips with the production. Even on her days off, Sadie says: “I think I’ll just keep on doing the British accent. It’ll feel natural like that!”

With opening night less two weeks away, Sadie’s dream of becoming a professional stage actress is quickly being realized. 

“Since the first time I saw someone on stage, I knew I wanted to be on stage,” Sadie recalls.

With a dancer for a mother, a musician for a father, and a lot of show tunes to listen to in the car, Sadie has grown up surrounded by the performing arts. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that Sadie was gestated in the performing arts. Officially, her on-stage debut was in-utero, while her mother Nora was dancing the lead in the John Adams opera Nixon in China.

To be sure, this upbringing has prepared Sadie well to be a thoughtful and confident performer. She aspires to one day portray Elphaba in Wicked and Eliza Hamilton in Hamilton, but today, she is hard at work preparing for a five-week run on the Ahmanson stage.

Tickets for the upcoming production can be found at the Center Theatre Group website (www.centertheatregroup.org). Sadie is confirmed to perform as Mary Lennox on February 25th at 2 pm, March 5th at 6:30 pm, March 12th at 6:30 pm, March 19th at 6:30 pm, and March 23rd at 2 pm. The Secret Garden with Sadie Brickman Reynolds runs from February 19 to March 26.  


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