Donate Now to Support KDHX

Listen Live
Tuesday, 02 August 2011 11:38

Enchantment Awaits in The Secret Garden

Written by Sheila R. Schultz
Rate this item
(4 votes)

The Details

  • Director: Michael Hamilton
  • Dates: July 23 - August 21, 2011
stagesstlouis.com
stagesstlouis.com

A reverie more than a drama, this production is enthralling. The simple story line is interspersed with dream sequences, incantations and other ethereal elements. This musical ignites our imagination with its hypnotic score by Lucy Simon. Beguiling Irish rhythms compete with plaintive airs. The lush design elements immerse us in an opulent fairy tale juxtaposed with morbid reality. The surrealistic design of Marsh Norman’s libretto prevents the play from wallowing in melodrama. Director Michael Hamilton pulls it all together.

The Secret Garden is based on the beloved children’s novel by British author, Frances Hodgson Burnett, published in 1911. It is the story of a child named Mary Lennox. Bereft of love and affection, she experiences a glorious rebirth. In the process, she rejuvenates others.

Alexis Kinney is the astonishing young actress who enacts Mary’s transformation. The character is complex, the score challenging. Kinney’s articulation is excellent. She handles harmonies and intricate counterpoint with apparent ease.

The musical begins in 1906, in Colonial India, where Mary’s father is stationed at a British military outpost. She is orphaned at the age of 10 when both parents die abruptly in a cholera epidemic. Before she can absorb the shock, she is uprooted and sent to Yorkshire, England to live with her Uncle Archie, a reclusive man she’s never met.

Archibald Craven (Peter Lockyer) is a widower with a slight spinal deformity and considerable emotional deformity. He is still in mourning for his beautiful wife, Lily, who died 10 years earlier giving birth to their son, Colin (Jon Olsen). Lockyear has an exquisite, supple voice. The actor manages to bring warmth to a character whose melancholia is romanticized.

(Melodrama aside, we might recall that Queen Victoria suffered prolonged grief after the premature death of her husband, Prince Albert in 1861. Moreover, that tragedy reverberated in Britain for decades.)

Archibald’s son, Colin, has been raised as an invalid, secreted in his father’s huge mansion. Dr. Neville Craven, his paternal uncle, forbids the boy to go outside and instructs Archie to distance himself from the fragile patient. Colin is unlikely to survive childhood, so it seems and the specter of death hovers over Misselthwaite Mansion … until Mary arrives.

At first, she feels oppressed by the gloom. The problem is exacerbated by Mrs. Medlock, the housekeeper whose demeanor is bleak as the winter landscape. Mary’s future looks grim indeed.

Then, Martha, the chambermaid (Julie Cardia), blows into Mary’s life like a breath of fresh air. Cardia’s performance is riveting. Every phrase uttered by the vivacious actress has a lilt that elevates the spirit. Mary’s sullen mood begins to lift in spite of herself. After Cardia’s delightful solo, “A Fine White Horse,” we’re reluctant to see her go. Martha urges Mary to play outside with Dickon, her brother.

Dickon (Joseph Medeiros) is born to nurture. The lad can beguile a robin or coax a withering plant back to life. He sings, dances and conjures with his gnarled staff in the show-stopping ode to spring, “Winter’s on the Wing”. Dickon’s Yorkshire dialect trips merrily on the tongue. Mary isn’t immune from his charm. They become friends.

At night, Mary is awakened by weeping sounds and wonders whether ghosts are wandering the halls. Indeed, we are witness to apparitions who revisit their loved ones in dreams and inner dialogues. The intersection of natural and supernatural worlds may seem confusing, but stunning lighting effects (Matthew McCarthy) and costuming (Dorothy Marshall Englis) clarify the distinctions.

It is not a ghost, however that cries at nighttime. It is Colin. Although the boy behaves disagreeably, Mary is relieved to learn the source of the sobbing. She is happier still to discover a new cousin, but has little patience with his apparent hypochondriasis and prefers the company of Dickon.

Dickon will teach Mary the art of gardening. Curiosity will lead her into Lily’s forbidden garden. Mary and Dickon are determined to conjure things back to life. That includes Colin. The splendor of English gardens includes “a maze of ways”. According to Ben, the old gardener, “Gettin’ lost’s how you learn.” Obstacles lie ahead. Ultimately, Dickon demonstrates that “a garden [is] where life begins anew.”

In some respects, The Secret Garden is the obverse of Into the Woods. The woods are dark and threatening. The gardens bring the promise of spring, rebirth and hope. According to Frances Hodgson Burnett, “When you have a garden, you have a future.”

The Secret Garden runs through runs through August 21, 2011 at Stages, located at 111 S. Geyer Road in Kirkwood. Information is available at www.stagesstlouis.org or by calling 314-821-2407.

Additional Info

  • Director: Michael Hamilton
  • Dates: July 23 - August 21, 2011

Sponsor Message

Become a Sponsor

Find KDHX Online

KDHX on Instagram
KDHX on YouTube
KDHX on SoundCloud
KDHX on Facebook
KDHX on Twitter
KDHX on flickr
KDHX Blog

Local Artist Spotlight


Tok Releases Gold Dollar Hen House Volume 3

Tue April 8
Tok is a Festus based rock band who has been rocking St. Louis for 20 years. They are due to release their third installment of their Gold Dollar Hen House collection on February 28, 2014 at Schlafly's…

KDHX Recommends

April
Saturday
19

Get Down To Business: Getting Booked Locally and Beyond

Ever wondered how to get that talent buyer to open your emails?  KDHX is here to help.   Join St. Louis promoters Steve Pohlman of Off Broadway, Brian McCormac of The Old Rock House, and Mike Cracciolo of The...


April
Tuesday
22

Tuesdays at KDHX Sessions: Worm-A-Rama

Tuesdays at KDHX Sessions presents Earth Day Worm-A-Rama with Jean Ponzi on Tuesday, April 22 at 7:30pm at The Stage. This visual-musical celebration of living on earth will feature musical guest, Augusta Bottoms Consort, tuneful...


April
Wednesday
23

Jimbo Mathus

KDHX welcomes Jimbo Mathus to Off Broadway on April 23th.   For more info, offbroadwaystl.com.


Get Answers!

If you have questions or need to contact KDHX, visit our answers portal at answers.kdhx.org.

Online Users

5 users and 6944 guests online
Sign in with Facebook

SYSTEM: S5 Box

Login/My Account

Sign in with Facebook