`Gardens' bloom above gloom
and Pawling mount musical productions of classic children's story
one, but two ``Secret Gardens'' have sprouted in our midst this summer. Musicals
at Richter in Danbury and the Pawling Theatre in New York state are presenting
concurrent productions of the musical adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett's
classic children's story.
productions have much to recommend; Richter rebounding nicely from an awkward
``Sweet Charity'' and Pawling offering its most polished musical effort to date.
Basford, left, plays Mary Lennox, with Tom Cochrane as Archibald Craven and Christopher
Taggart as Colin, in ``The Secret Garden,'' playing through July 27 at Musicals
at Richter in Danbury.
importantly, the musicianship in each is of a high level, with strong casts of
singers. Both also boast professional musical backup that's a far cry from the
ragged, small band that often is the norm.
said, the book for the musical by Marsha Norman remains a murky business. There's
far too much emphasis on the emotional traumas of the adults, casting an air of
gloom over the proceedings that even the redemptive ending can barely lighten.
tale follows a Dickensian formula for tales about displaced orphans, including
a stern housekeeper and a brooding country setting.
Mary Lennox, living in India with her parents, awakes one morning to find everyone
in her home dead of cholera. Returned to England to live with her widowed, melancholy
Uncle Archibald in his large, ghost-ridden mansion, Mary is befriended by the
maid Martha and Martha's brother Dickon, both Mary's age.
mysterious crying that echoes throughout the house, she finds her young cousin,
Archibald's son, Colin, bedridden and convinced he is going to die.
discovery of a secret garden, once the pride and joy of Archibald's dead wife,
Lily, but now bleak and overgrown, provides her with a project that ultimately
restores health to Colin.
Maraia takes the role of Dickon and Shannon Sarna appears as Mary Lennox in Pawling
Theatre's ``The Secret Garden,'' through July 20 at the Pawling High School Auditorium,
a sentimental tale that goes awry in Norman's interpretation, with an overdose
of dour ghosts who weave in and out of the children's story. Her script does not
clearly establish the motives of Archibald's brother, Neville, who also lives
in the Yorkshire manor.
_ who also loved Lily _ now tends to Colin, but may be responsible for the boy's
fear of the outside world. Two Indian spirits, a fakir and an ayah who also pop
in and out, make clumsy additions to the plot. Reappearing red handkerchiefs,
meant to convey the passing of cholera from one person to another, are visually
interesting but dramatically superfluous.
musical would have better served the story's uplifting message about renewal if
it had focused more on Mary, her young friends and the symbolism of the reborn
what we get for far too much of the evening is a clammy Victorian chamber opera
more interested in Archibald, Lily (who appears as a ghost) and the ambivalent
Neville. Marsha Norman also wrote the lyrics for Lucy Simon's mostly uninspired
who remember reading ``The Secret Garden'' in their childhood or seeing one of
the several film versions may be let down by this musical version that puts melancholy