Follow me and my friend Alyssa around Washington, D.C. as we grab cookies at Momofuku Milk Bar, explore the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and see The Secret Garden musical at the Shakespeare Theatre Company!
Sometimes you see a musical with so much heart and nuance that it fills you with such hope and joy. The Secret Garden is one of those musicals.
With a beautiful opening sequence, the story follows young Mary Lennox (Anya Rothman) as she loses her parents to cholera and is forced to move from India to England to live with an uncle she’s never met. Told in part by a vocally transcendent Greek chorus of ghosts, the story is riddled with flashbacks that piece together the pasts of Mary and her uncle, Archibald Craven (Michael Xavier), a grief-stricken hunchback who is a recluse in a dark and dreary mansion.
Archibald lost his love, Lily Craven (played by a stunning Lizzie Klemperer), and is still in mourning, ten years later. Mary wanders the halls of his home, trying to figure out whose sobs fill the empty hallways each night, uncovering secrets lost to time in the process. Through spunk, an indomitable spirit, and the help of a jovial gardener named Dicken (Charlie Franklin), Mary helps Archibald discover what he lost, and brings magic back to their world.
The grandiose set features a skeletal frame of Archibald’s house; this, along with the lighting, lend to the somber, eerie atmosphere that makes up most of the show. It’s not until the final moments, when the ends are tied up and the secret garden is found, blossoming, that the stage is flooded with light, love, and the warm embrace of nostalgia.
The casting for this production lends to this sense of nostalgia, as Daisy Eagan, who played Mary in the original Broadway cast of The Secret Garden (and won a Tony for her performance) returns to the show in the role of Martha, the quirky, kind-hearted maid.
One of my favorite parts of the show is the score by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon–Alyssa and I were still humming melodies as we rode home on the metro. It perfectly captures the hopeful and haunting tones of the musical with gorgeous, soaring orchestrations and chilling harmonies.
Extended through January 8th and with an engagement scheduled at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, this magical production of The Secret Garden musical will both enchant you and sweep you off your feet with its swelling melodies and convivial spirit.
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