The Secret Garden. Musical Fantasy . Written by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon based on the novel Frances Hodgson Burnett. Directed by Dyan McBride. Musical direction by Lauren Mayer. Choreography by Robyn Tribuzi. 42nd Street Moon, Gateway Theatre (formerly the Eureka Theatre), 215 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA . www.42ndstmoon.org or (415) 255-8207. December 9- 24, 2017
The Secret Garden a noble try by 42nd Street Moon. Rating:
On opening night of 42nd Street Moon’s ambitious production of The Secret Garden only half of the audience rose for a standing ovation and the remainder gave appropriate applause. Such a response is well earned and requires dissection. The creative team has brought in a seasoned group of actors and probably went over budget in the physical mounting. They have created a solid atmospheric set with translucent side panels used for projections and shadow vignettes trying to capture the mystical atmosphere written in the script. The major problem was our inability to understand the lyrics that are extremely important to having a complete grasp of the entire production.
Considering that the script (story-line) has been ballyhooed as a “family show” it actually is an inspirational dark tale that ends on an upbeat note and is hardly for children. At least not for the children seated in front of us.
The opening scene takes place in India where the parents of our protagonist Mary Lennox (Katie Maupin) have succumbed to a cholera epidemic. She is sent to live with an embittered Uncle Archibald Craven (Brian Watson) in Yorkshire, England. The estate is a morbid shrine to his wife Lily (Sharon Rietkerk) who died during childbirth of a cripple boy Colin (Tyler Groshong) being looked after by the venal elder brother Doctor Neville Craven (Edward Hightower) who was also in love with Lily.
Ghosts called ‘dreamers’ in the program move in and out of the stage buttressing the background to the story. Rounding out the living characters are rigid housekeeper Mrs. Medlock (Lucinda Hitchcock Cone), head gardener Ben (Scott Hayes), Yorkshire maid Martha (Heather Orth) and her brother Dickon (Keith Pinto) who can speak with animals.
Mary has difficulty sleeping her first night there (“I Heard Someone Crying”) as she and Archibald both mourn their losses. The next morning, Mary meets Martha who encourages her to go play outside by telling her about the surrounding moors (“If I Had a Fine White Horse”) and a secret (hidden) garden. Meanwhile, Archibald remains submerged in his memories of Lily (“A Girl in the Valley”), while ghosts waltz to Lily’s and Archibald’s serenading.
Because it reminds him of Lily, Archibald has locked the secret garden. Dickon invokes the spring (“Winter’s On the Wing”) and teaches Mary to speak the Yorkshire dialect to an English robin (“Show Me the Key”). The bird leads Mary to the key for the garden, but does not show her the door. Mary finds the door and explores the garden that all looks dead from neglect. Dickon, Ben and Martha reassure her it is only dormant and with love and care will and does bloom again leading to a fine duet by Rietkerk and Watson near the end of the show.
There are specific highlights including the performance by 12 year old Katie Maupin. Watson and Hightower have powerful tenor voices and their duets earn accolades. Sharon Rietkerk’s lilting expressive soprano voice has nuances to be admired. Keith Pinto and Heather Orth steal the show with their clear crisp voices and stage presence with an added pat on the back for Pinto’s dancing.
With 27 songs, often sung it operatic style, much of it in recitative by the “Greek Chorus” of ‘Dreamers’ needs more attention to earn a should see recommendation. Running time two hours and twenty minutes with an intermission.
CAST: Katie Maupin as “Mary Lennox”; Brian Watson as “Archibald Craven”; Edward Hightower* as “Neville Craven,”; Tyler Groshong as “Colin,”; Sharon Rietkerk* as “Lily,”; Keith Pinto* as “Dickon”; Heather Orth as “Martha,”. Ensemble Amanda Johnson*, Ryan Lee Henry, Scott Hayes, Michael Mohammed, Lucinda Hitchcock Cone*, Corinne Rydman,Terry McLaughlin and Anjali Blacker.
ARTISTIC TEAM: Director Dyan McBride; Music Director Lauren Maye; Choreographer Robyn Tribuz; Scenic Designer: Brian Watson; Costume Designer: Rebecca Valentino; Properties Designer: Darcia Tipton; Stage Manager: Alicia Lerner*
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.
(L to R) Katie Maupin as Mary Lennox, Sharon Rietkerk as Lily, and Brian Watson as Archibald Craven.
(L to R) Scott Hayes as Ben Weatherstaff and Katie Maupin as Mary Lennox.
All photos by Ben Krantz Studios.