A message of friendship and overcoming obstacles was emphasized Saturday as Missoula Children's Theatre put on its annual play in Los Banos.
The 53-member cast performed "The Secret Garden" twice at the Ted Falasco Arts Center.
Jarrett Sagouspe, who helped facilitate the play at the Arts Center, said he enjoyed the week the children spent rehearsing.
"Overall, the kids have been wonderful, they've been professional and seemed like they enjoyed it," Sagouspe said. "The hardest part has been keeping it clean in here with 50 kids running around."
Los Banos was the fifth of nine stops for directors Rachel Meyer and Ricky Vanelli on the Missoula, Mont., company's West Coast tour.
Missoula uses children in first to 12th grade for its plays. The weeklong rehearsals begin with the cast separated by roles and age. Toward the end of the week, the cast rehearses together and musical numbers are incorporated.
"There's always a different dynamic with each cast," Meyer said. "The dynamic with this group was being supportive. They really are so supportive of each other and they get along so well."
Missoula Children's Theatre has been performing in Los Banos for 40 years. In "The Secret Garden," Meyer and Vanelli took on the roles of two of the main characters, leaving stage hands to make sure everything ran smoothly backstage.
Missoula Children's Theatre's version of "The Secret Garden" is the story of Mistress Mary Quite Contrary traveling from India to her uncle's home in England. Along the way, she makes friends with Canada geese and giant bugs and other creatures, learning to appreciate everything around her. The garden allows a disabled boy to not feel so lonely and eventually heals his ailments.
At the end of the play, Meyer thanked the parents for letting their children participate and spoke of the thousands of children that will be in Missoula productions this year.
But, she told the adults, "you've, of course, already seen the best cast right here."