MD native Brandi Burkhardt is currently portraying the role of Lily in The Secret Garden at Center Stage. The production runs through November 29th. While Brandi’s career spans the worlds of theatre, film, television, concert performances and recordings, she is best known for her role of Crickett on the hit CW television show Hart of Dixie. Her love of theatre would eventually lead her from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts to the Miss America Pageant and ultimately to the Broadway stage.
Ms. Burkhardt has graced the Broadway stage as a leading lady in shows including A Tale of Two Cities and Mamma Mia!, and she has had the pleasure of creating strong female leads in The Count of Monte Cristo, Bonnie & Clyde, Wonderland and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Additional favorite roles include Mary Poppins (Mary), The Music Man (Marian) with Shirley Jones, Camelot (Guinevere) opposite Robert Sean Leonard and Li’l Abner (Daisy Mae) with Cathy Rigby.
With a concert career that has taken her across the globe, one of her greatest honors was performing for the President and the First Lady at The National Theatre in remembrance of the Civil War, alongside such celebrated artists as Trisha Yearwood, Hal Holbrook and Dr. Maya Angelou. You may also remember her as a mermaid on the daytime drama Passions, from such films as Confessions of a Shopaholic or from a myriad of guest-starring roles on shows including Mad Men, How I Met Your Mother, Brothers & Sisters, Boston Legal, The Glades, The Defenders, NCIS and Numb3rs.
Having just seen Brandi in The Secret Garden, there were two things that just jumped out at me. The first was her gorgeous soprano sound, which is paramount for being a good Lily. Her “How Could I Ever Know” rips your heart out as it should. Secondly was her stage presence. Lily is not seen a whole lot in the show but when Brandi hits the stage for her scenes, you take notice.
The holiday season is a time for families and family entertainment. If you are looking for something that isn’t holiday specific but can be enjoyed together, check out Brandi Burkhardt through this weekend in The Secret Garden at Center Stage. The experience will be totally “Wick.”
Growing up here in MD, did you know you were going to become a performer?
I knew I was going to be a performer after I was encouraged to audition for our school musical. I never could tell if I was a good singer because until that point I had been too shy to sing for anyone, and while I sounded great in my shower I wasn’t quite certain I could transfer it to a stage in front of a crowd of people! After that, pageants and becoming Miss Maryland Teen USA helped me to come out of my shell more and more, which eventually led me to Miss America and then to Broadway!
Can you please talk about the production concept for this production of The Secret Garden and how it differs from the original Broadway staging?
Our set is deigned to be more implied than literal in the sense that we have very few set pieces and props. The locations are created by only a few chairs or branches to create an atmosphere more than a setting, allowing the audience to become a part of creating the magic with the use of imagination, much like one would in a book.
Why do you think the story of The Secret Garden is still a favorite with people of all ages after all of these years?
The thing that always keep shows relevant to my mind is heart. The Secret Garden contains universal themes centered around death, forgiveness, growth, life and love and is told through the eyes of a child allowing a much more graceful way of dealing with such large scale issues.
Can you please talk about the experience of performing for President and Mrs. Bush and also a little something about what function it was for?
Performing for the President and First Lady was such an honor in and of itself, so I was even more blessed to have had the opportunity to share the stage at the National Theater with artists like Dr. Maya Angelou, Hal Holbrook, Trisha Yearwood, BeBe Winans, Larry Gatlin and others to raise money for the Ford’s Theater in Washington DC with a concert remembering the Civil War, and celebrating President Lincoln.
What is next for you after The Secret Garden concludes its run?
Looking forward to getting back to Los Angeles to spend some time in the sunshine over the holidays.