The Secret Garden. Book and Lyrics by Marsha Norman, Music by Lucy Simon. Adapted from the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Directed by Dyan McBride. 42nd Street Moon, Gateway Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco, CA.
42nd Street Moon presents the 1991 Tony award winning musical The Secret Garden, a dark, moody piece of loss, grief and isolation that ironically becomes perfect holiday fare with its message of forgiveness, hope and rebirth. A solid cast and some standout performances make the most of the often glum and unmemorable score.
Based on the popular 1911 book, The Secret Garden tells the story of 11 year-old Mary Lennox (Kate Maupin), a neglected orphan sent to live with distant relatives on the gloomy moors in Yorkshire after the death of her parents during a cholera outbreak. The master of the house is her uncle Archibald (Brian Watson), a hunchback recluse still painfully mourning the loss of his wife Lily. The two can’t seem to connect at first although they both have their mourning in common. Add to the mix an irritable housekeeper, Mrs. Medlock (Lucinda Hitchcock Cone) and you have some pretty unsympathetic characters.
There’s not much for a young girl to do, so she explores the Gothic mansion and its grounds making two startling discoveries: her invalid cousin Colin (Tyler Groshong), locked away in his room, and her Aunt Lily’s forgotten and decaying secret garden, now locked away and out of Archibald’s tortured mind. There’s an undeveloped subplot involving Archibald’s brother Neville (Edward Hightower) and an unrequited love triangle with Lily (Sharon Reitkerk).
Mary befriends three characters; Martha (Heather Orth), a housekeeper, Martha’s brother Dickon (Keith Pinto) and the old gardener Ben (Scott Hayes), all of whom help Mary discover the secret garden and bring it back to life. The rejuvenation of the garden is an obvious metaphor for the renewal of the troubled characters and there’s a happy ending for all.
Director McBride keeps the action moving and gets some fine performances from: Kate Maupin who plays Mary with the right amount of sulky bratiness that turns into earnest gumption; Brian Watson, as the haunted Archibald and Sharon Reitkerk as Lily. The always amazing Heather Orth shines on her solo, “A Fine White Horse” and Keith Pinto is wonderful as Dickon.
The production looks and feels Gothic and constricting like its characters. Rebecca Valentine’s costumes bring to life the Victorian era and Robin Tribuzi’s multi-genre choreography blends both India and the UK. Brian Watson’s scenic design incorporates projected graphics to create interior and exterior landscapes.
The Secret Garden is all about dysfunctional families and capability of repair and growth. There’s some Indian mysticism and enchanting spells involved in bringing the garden, and the characters back to life. It’s worth a viewing for the strength of the performances alone.
Performances run thru December 24, 2017 www.42ndstmoon.org 415.255.8207