Unlike sleepless nights and diaper blowouts, sharing your favorite children’s books with your sidekick is a parent perk to get excited about. And when that book comes to life on stage, all the better. Whether you loved The Secret Garden when you were young, or simply want a magical night at the theater with your kidlet, The 5th Avenue Theatre’s production of the Frances Hodgson Burnett classic won’t disappoint. Read on for the inside scoop!
photo: Mark Kitaoka
The Seeds of a Good Story
Every good story needs a compelling place to start. And for Mary Lennox, the lonely 10-year-old at the heart of The Secret Garden, this start comes when her family is struck down by a cholera epidemic and she’s sent to live with an uncle she’s never met. Like Mary, Uncle Archibald is lonely, a widower haunted by the death of his beloved wife, Lily, who’s once vibrant garden is at the center of this story. Now living under the same roof, in a house filled with loss and memories, Mary and her Uncle circle around each other, trying to find comfort in their separate ways. But when Mary discovers a sickly cousin hidden away in a remote room on the estate, her journey toward healing begins.
While Uncle Archibald is chasing the ghosts of his past, Mary’s chance discovery of a hidden key unlocks doors, metaphorical and real, and leads her to her aunt’s legendary garden, which has fallen into disarray since her death ten years earlier. But not to worry, Mary (with the help of groundskeeper Dickon) has her heart set on restoring the garden to its original beauty, just in time for spring. And so continues the roundabout way each of the main characters rediscovers love and finds a sense of belonging on the run-down estate. Mary in bringing the garden back to life; Colin by standing on his own two feet (literally); and Uncle Archibald in finally letting go of the past and learning to love what’s right in front of him.
photo: Mark Kitaoka
Reviving the Garden
At its core, The Secret Garden is about renewal, bringing something back to life. That’s just what many of the actors are doing, returning to their original Secret Garden roles after 25 years. It’s another part of the ethereal magic of this production. Twenty-five years ago Daisy Eagan won a Tony Award for her role as Mary Lennox, as part of the original Broadway cast. Now it’s fun to spot her on stage fully embodying the role of Martha, Mary’s caretaker at Archibald’s estate. There’s something intrinsically gratifying about watching this veteran actor pass her wisdom on to a young new Mary Lennox. Lizzie Klemperer, who plays Lily, is another actor returning to her Secret Garden roots. Her voice is just as hauntingly lovely as it was the first time around. The same can be said for Charlie Franklin and Sean Griffin, who tend both to the expansive garden and to Mary, in their roles as Dickon and Ben.
All of this is not to say that the newcomers aren’t wroth a mention, too. The child actors in particular shoulder the weighty responsibility of their roles with ease. It’s no wonder all the kidlets’ eyes will be trained on Mary (Bea Corley) and Colin (Guthrie Greenwood Bettinger and Coleman Hunter) and their fantastic antics. Tiny theater buffs will recognize the charming stubbornness that make Mary and Colin their kin, and they’ll delight in the discoveries Mary and Colin make throughout the story, too. These two will make quite an impression on your little dramatist.
photo: Tracy Martin
Good to Know:
1. Give you little theatergoer a boost with a cushion to make sure she or he doesn’t miss a minute of this musical. You can grab them outside the main floor doors or at the coat check.
2. Like all of The 5th Avenue Theatre’s productions, only patrons ages 4 & older are allowed. That means even babes-in-arms need to stay home.
3. The show’s run time is around two hours and 20 minutes, but there’s an intermission so your sidekick can get his or her wiggles out. Psst… be sure to check out the orchestra pit mid-show. Ducking down to wave to the musicians is an awesome half-pint perk!
The 5th Avenue Theatre
1308 5th Ave.
Dates: Now through May 6, 2017
Times: Tues. & Wed., 7:30 p.m.; Thurs. & Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.
Cost: $29 & up
Do you plan to see The Secret Garden? Tell us about your experience in the Comments below.
— Allison Sutcliffe