The revival of Secret Garden blossoms with new mysteries and meanings (2023)

Pain is a garden. Something to watch out for so we don't get overwhelmed with weeds and knots. Something that can become a beautiful bond for the people we've loved and lost.

That's the thought in the heart ofthe secret Garden,first a novelFrances Hodgson Burnettand also a 1991 Broadway musical, now significantly revised for a Broadway performance at the Center Theater Group's Ahmanson Theater.

The musical has always been a bit like its heroine, young orphan Mary Lennox (Emily Jewel Hoder), also hard to sympathize with at first, a little quirky, but ultimately has the power to move others towards healing. Here the production directed and choreographed byWarren Carlyle, fresh from the famous linehugh jackman music man rebirth,it's tight, tightmarsha normansOriginal book and new fluid.lucy simonsradiant score.

The secret Garden

The revival of Secret Garden blossoms with new mysteries and meanings (1)

The Secret Garden is now set in Los Angeles

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| Photo credit: Matthew Murphy of MurphyMade

While Burnett's novel focused on Mary, who is forced to move to England and her uncle Archibald Craven's (Derrick Davis) stately Gothic home when her parents die of cholera, the musical pays equal attention to the story's adults. Archibald is paralyzed with grief after losing his beloved wife, Lily (an ethereal Sierra Boggess), whose presence haunts the halls and grounds of Misselthwaite Manor. He's consumed because he can't bear to visit his own son Colin (Reese Levine), who is being tended to by his brother, the lesser Dr. Neville Craven (Aaron Lazar).

This update looks at the things that make the show so wonderfully unusual and so special, and connects the show with the ghosts of the past in a way that pays homage to Burnett's fantastical realism.

Carlyle further enhances this with acting touches, like adding rage in personified form (triple threat Kelley Dorney, who also brings the house down with a comic relief scene as the Scottish schoolteacher). It may be a pretentious choice, but it is a powerfully moving choice that allows us to understand from the first moments how this story is one that lives and breathes in allegories and physical representations of things that do not exist.

The secret Garden

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Lily (Sierra Boggess) haunts the memories of the men who loved her.

| Photo credit: Matthew Murphy of MurphyMade

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From the beginning, Lily is omnipresent and looks down on Mary when she is still a child in India. Boggess floats around the edges of the stage, walks backstage or lingers on the stairs. His physical presence is a reminder that you are never far from the people of Misselthwaite. In the hands of a lesser actress, this might seem like a throwaway role as an always-on character, but mostly speaking of truly angelic songs in sporadic moments. But Boggess (who was actually a real-life Disney Princess as Broadway's Little Mermaid Ariel) literally glows with the glittering ribbons of her fantasies and, metaphorically, like a shining light, propelling those she loves into a future free of all the anguish that consumes. they.

The role of Mary Lennox is a challenging one for a child actress, a character who appears in nearly every scene and emotional core of the story, as well as the audience's totem pole amid a host of great characters. But Emily Jewel Hoder is more than up to the task, almost miraculously, considering she joined the cast quite late in the rehearsal process, joining the previously announced Ava Madison Gray and Sadie Brickman Reynolds, who have always been in a few performances. and they still show up. Mary, although Hoder contributes most of the night shows.

You could say she's a star in the making, but honestly, she already is. Carrying the weight of the production's heavy themes with remarkable grace on her slender shoulders, she leaps nimbly from moment to moment, from precocious curiosity to deep yearning to childlike stubbornness.

The secret Garden

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"She's Got My Lily's Hazel Eyes" interpretada por Archibald (Derrick Davis) e Neville (Aaron Lazar)

| Photo credit: Matthew Murphy of MurphyMade

Derrick Davis and Aaron Lazar are the perfect antagonists as two brothers who love the same woman (and boy, do they live up to the soundtrack's standout number, "Lily's Eyes"). As Davis' grief made Archibald fearful and isolated, it turned Neville's unrequited desire into bitter resentment. But both temper these men with nuances of each other, making their familial connection clear as we see the different outcomes of injury and loss on both, highlighting that neither is hero or villain.

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Also featured in a cast filled with extraordinary talent is Julia Lester, who recently starred as Little Red Riding Hood in the Broadway revival of Little Red Riding Hood.not okwith another naughty woman with tons of hearts. She is Martha, a servant who provides Mary and Colin with the respect and affection often denied by the adults in their lives. When she sings "Hold On" at the end of the second act, it's a pleasant surprise that the twinkle in her eye and comic timing are equally matched by her powerful voice.

The secret Garden

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Martha (Julia Lester) helps Mary (Emily Jewel Hoder) write a letter.

| Photo credit: Matthew Murphy of MurphyMade

Carlyle's decision to engage with the haunted allegory of history, the overriding sense of being haunted by our past, is reflected in Jason Sherwood's set design. The action revolves around a spinning piece of fabric that changes with the light (and the seasons) and depicts everything from the mansion's staircase to a tree in the titular garden. It's imaginative and evocative, especially in heavily visual moments like the end of Act I where Mary is in a thunderstorm (a theatrical effect that's very much in vogue at the moment, but still thrilling to witness).

But the design metaphor doesn't go far enough when it comes to the Secret Garden, which features a wooden tree and a door fit for a hobbit. The flowering of the garden should be a transformative moment, instead a rather barren arched trellis is meant to fill in the splendor of nature.

The secret Garden

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Mary (Emily Jewel Hoder) is in a storm

| Photo credit: Matthew Murphy of MurphyMade

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notwithstanding, notwithstandingThe secret Gardenit looks and perhaps plays as well as ever, paying attention to everything from tweaks to the story's inherent colonialism to removing songs and cutscenes that slow down the action.

Instead, like its titular garden, the show plants the seeds of its allegorical expressionism in its opening moments, nurturing and nurturing the concept until it blossoms into heartfelt, emotionally wrenching glory by the 11 o'clock number. and an exciting finale.

It is difficult, especially as a child, to give voice to pain, to understand its routines and seasons. As reflected in this exuberant experimental production,The secret Gardenit's a beautiful, life-affirming story about finding language for our pain and learning to blossom and live again with hope.B+

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