THE SECRET GARDEN: A Magical Secret Worth Sharing

photo by Gary Ng

The Secret Garden, book and lyrics by Susan Kosoff, Music by Jane Staab, Wheelock Family Theatre, 1/28/11-2/27/11 (including weekday performances 2/22/11-2/25/11),

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

As I was watching Wheelock’s production of The Secret Garden, I wished I was eight again (except for the horrible prospect of growing up again).  Wheelock Family Theatre is a magical place where dreams come alive, and this is particularly evident in their production of The Secret Garden.

One can’t help but be enchanted by the scenery by Matthew T. Lazure.  The garden wall rotates and reveals the inside of the garden, and Colin’s room appears from the walls of the seemingly impenetrable house.  Another clever aspect is the “growth” of the flowers during intermission; I put my head down for one minute–I look up and see leaves; I put my head down for another moment, look up and see flowers in full bloom.

Mary Lennox, played by Katherine Leigh Doherty, can be a difficult role to cast and play since the child needs to be both vulnerable and strong.  Doherty transforms from a sullen youth to a source of light and energy for the entire household.  Ellis Gage plays Mary’s contrary cousin Colin.  While he is obstinate and rude, Mary helps him to look outside of himself and into the garden.

Jennifer Beth Glick as Martha and Neil Gustafson as Ben guide Mary towards the path of childhood and joy.  The cast is rounded out by Andrew Barbato, Jacqui Parker, Russell Garrett, and Jane Staab.  The two other “stars” of the show are the robin and the rabbit.  The robin is a puppet that floats and sings along the garden wall.  It seems as lively as any of its human counterparts.  The rabbit, a gift for Colin, does not really add much to the story but does illicit “oos” and”ahs” from the children (and myself).

The production takes care to keep the children’s interest without being condescending.  While not as dark as the book, the story remains true to the spirit of the classic tale.  I wished I was one of the children being taken to see the show, but I was glad to be one of the adults who got to see the young ones enraptured in the show.  TNETG. 2/19/11.

photo by Gary Ng

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