The Secret Garden (musical)

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The Secret Garden
Music Lucy Simon
Lyrics Marsha Norman
Book Marsha Norman
Basis Frances Hodgson Burnett's children's novel
The Secret Garden
Productions 1989 Virginia Stage Company
1991 Broadway
1995 Australia
2001 West End
Awards Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical

The Secret Garden is a musical based on the 1911 novel of the same name by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The musical's book and lyrics are by Marsha Norman, with music by Lucy Simon. It premiered on Broadway in 1991 and ran for 709 performances.

The story is set in the early years of the 20th century.[n 1] Mary Lennox, a young English girl born and raised in the British Raj, is orphaned by a cholera outbreak when she is eleven years old. She is sent away from India to Yorkshire, England, to live with relatives whom she has never met. Her own personality blossoms as she and a young gardener bring new life to a neglected garden, as well as to her sickly cousin and uncle.

Productions[edit]

The Secret Garden premiered on Broadway at the St. James Theatre on April 25, 1991 and closed on January 3, 1993 after 709 performances. Directed by Susan H. Schulman with choreography by Michael Lichtefeld, the cast featured Daisy Eagan as Mary Lennox. It won the 1991 Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical, Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Daisy Eagan), and Best Scenic Design (Heidi Landesman). Eagan at age 11 was the youngest female recipient of a Tony Award. The set resembled an enormous Victorian toy theatre with pop-out figures, large paper dolls, and Joseph Cornell-like collage elements.[1]

Theoni V. Aldredge designed wardrobes and was nominated for Best Costume Design. The wardrobe is on display at the Costume World Broadway Collection in Pompano Beach, Florida.

The musical was produced in Australia in 1995 in Brisbane (opened on 27 July 1995), Sydney (opened on 7 September 1995), and Melbourne (opened on 20 December 1995). Directed by Schulman and with sets by Landesman, the cast starred Philip Quast as Neville Craven and Anthony Warlow as Archibald Craven.[2]

A heavily revised Royal Shakespeare Company production ran at Stratford (UK) from November 13, 2000 until January 27, 2001, with Philip Quast and Meredith Braun and directed by Adrian Noble, staged and choreographed by Gillian Lynne.[3] The RSC production transferred to the West End Aldwych Theatre, running from February 2001 until June 2001.[4][5]

The Secret Garden was The Third Annual World AIDS Day Benefit Concert, held on December 5, 2005 at the Manhattan Center Studios Grand Ballroom, New York City, directed by Stafford Arima and produced by Jamie McGonnigal.[6]

In February 2010, Mirvish Productions announced that The Secret Garden will open in Toronto in March 2011.[7]

Synopsis[edit]

This synopsis describes the original Broadway production; the reworked London production altered this sequence by moving or omitting several scenes and songs.

Act I

Mary Lennox, a 10-year-old English girl who has lived in India since birth, dreams of English nursery rhymes and Hindi chants ("Opening").[n 2] She awakes to learn that her parents and nearly everyone she knew in India, including her Ayah, have died of cholera. Found by survivors of the epidemic (officers who worked alongside her father), Mary is sent back to England to live with her only remaining relations ("There's a Girl").

(Note: Throughout the show, these and other songs are sung by a chorus of ghosts, referred to in the libretto as "dreamers," who serve as narrators and Greek chorus for the action.)

Her mother's sister, Lily, died many years ago. Lily's widower is Archibald Craven, a hunchback who is still overcome by grief. The management of his manor house, Misselthwaite, is largely left to his brother, Dr. Neville Craven. The house is persistently haunted by ghosts (i.e. Lily, Ayah, Fakir, Rose, and Albert Lennox, officers from India, etc.) and spirits of Archibald's and Mary's pasts, due to their holding on to what used to be. The housekeeper, Mrs. Medlock, coldly welcomes Mary to Yorkshire on her arrival ("The House Upon the Hill"). Mary has difficulty sleeping her first night there ("I Heard Someone Crying") as she and Archibald both mourn their losses. The next morning, Mary meets Martha, a young chambermaid who encourages Mary to go play outside by telling her about the surrounding moorland and grounds ("If I Had a Fine White Horse"), in particular, a secret (hidden) garden. Meanwhile, Archibald remains submerged in his memories of Lily ("A Girl In the Valley"), while ghosts waltz to Lily's and Archibald's serenading.

Mary explores the garden, laid out in Victorian style as a topiary maze, as do Ben Weatherstaff, an old gardener, and Martha's brother Dickon ("It's a Maze"), each with a different agenda. Ben tells Mary that the secret garden has been locked since Lily's death, as it reminds Archibald of her. Dickon invokes the spring ("Winter's On the Wing") in a rustic druid-like fashion; he claims to converse with animals and teaches Mary to speak the Yorkshire dialect to an English Robin ("Show Me the Key"). The bird leads Mary to the key for the garden, but does not show Mary the door.

Archibald has a formal meeting with his niece, who asks him for ("A Bit of Earth") to plant a garden of her own; he is startled and compares her to Lily for their shared horticultural interests. As the Yorkshire gloom turns to rain and "Shakes the souls of the dead" ("Storm I"), Archibald and his brother Neville both notice that Mary also physically resembles her aunt ("Lily's Eyes"), with whom both men were in love.

As the rain continues, Mary again hears someone crying ("Storm II"), but this time she finds the source: her cousin Colin, confined to bed since his birth, when his mother Lily died. He has been in bed his entire life because Archibald feared that Colin would also become a hunch back. In reality, Colin's spine is perfectly fine but his father is convinced that he has passed on his curse. Colin confides in his cousin his dreams of ("A Round-Shouldered Man") who comes to him at night and reads to him from his book "of all that's good and true". However, just as it seems they have become friends, Neville and Mrs. Medlock burst in and dismiss her angrily, telling her she is never to see Colin again. As the storm reaches its peak, Mary runs outside and finds the door to the garden ("Final Storm").

Act II

Mary has a reverie about ("The Girl I Mean to Be,") with "a place I can go when I am lost." In reality, the garden is like her uncle and Mary herself, neglected and half-wild.

Archibald relates a dream to Neville about seeing Lily and Mary together in the garden. But Neville's dreams are darker: recalling his unrequited love for Lily, Neville wants Archibald to leave Misselthwaite entirely to him. The two brothers' musings are interwoven with ghostly echoes of old arguments between Lily and her sister Rose (Mary's mother) about Archibald's suitability as a prospective husband and father ("Quartet"). At Neville's urging, Archibald leaves for the Continent, pausing only to read a fairy tale to Colin as the boy sleeps ("Race You To the Top of the Morning").

Mary asks Dickon for help with the garden, which appears dead; Dickon explains that it is probably just dormant and that "somewhere there's a single streak of green inside it" ("Wick"). Mary tells Colin about the discovered garden, but he is initially reluctant to go outside until encouraged by a vision of his mother ("Come to My Garden/Lift Me Up"). Mary, Dickon, and Martha clandestinely bring Colin to the garden in a wheelchair. In the garden, the exercise and fresh air begin to make Colin well ("Come Spirit, Come Charm"). The dreamers sing the praises of the renewed garden ("A Bit of Earth (Reprise)").

Back in the house, Mary faces down Neville as he threatens to send her away to boarding school. Martha tells Mary she must ("Hold On")--"when you see a man who's ragin'/And he's jealous and he fears/That you've walked through walls he's hid behind for years..." Mary writes to Archibald ("Letter Song") urging him to come home.

At first Archibald feels defeated and frustrated ("Where In the World"), but Lily's ghost convinces him to return ("How Could I Ever Know"). Entering the garden, he finds Colin completely healthy; in fact, he is beating Mary in a footrace as Archibald walks through the door. Archibald, a changed man, accepts Mary as his own, and the dreamers invite all to "stay here in the garden," as Lily and Mary's parents Albert and Rose promise to look over them for the rest of their days ("Finale").

Changes from the original novel[edit]

Burnett's novel primarily focused on Mary and her interactions with Colin, Martha, and Dickon. The musical adds more emphasis to the adult characters by presenting (and to some extent, inventing) the shared history entwining the two families. Originally, Burnett stated that the name of Archibald's wife was Lilias, and that she was the sister of Mary Lennox's father; in the musical, Colin's and Mary's mothers are sisters named Lily and Rose.

In the book, Colin's private physician is an otherwise unnamed poor cousin of Archibald Craven; Colin privately remarks to Mary that Dr. Craven is the next heir to Misselthwaite and "always looks cheerful when [Colin's health] is worse", but Burnett also states that Dr. Craven is "not an unscrupulous man, though he was a weak one, and he did not intend to let [Colin] run into actual danger." The musical tightens the doctor's conflict of interest and makes him the primary antagonist as Archibald's brother, Dr. Neville Craven, who once hopelessly loved Lily and whom Mary expressly accuses of wanting Colin to die for the sake of his inheritance.

Songs[edit]

Characters, casts, and recordings[edit]

(*Note: On the cast recording, this role was sung by Christian Patterson) A full recording was made with the Original Broadway cast, including all of the songs listed above as well as some interstitial material, and released on CD by Columbia Recordsin 1991 (catalog number CK 48817). An eight-song "highlights" album with Fiddes, Ritchie, and the rest of the Australian cast was released on CD by Polydor RecordsAustralia in 1995 (catalog number 579 997-2). The Original London production was partially reworked for production by the Royal Shakespeare Company, reducing the emphasis on the adult characters to return the plot closer to the original book. A full recording of this version was released on CD by First Night Records in 2001.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Character Original Broadway performer Original Australian performer Original West End performer 2005 World AIDS Day Benefit "Dream" Cast
Mary Lennox Daisy Eagan Samantha Fiddes / Sarah Ogden Natalie Morgan Jaclyn Neidenthal
Archibald Craven Mandy Patinkin Anthony Warlow Philip Quast Steven Pasquale
Lily Craven Rebecca Luker Marina Prior Meredith Braun Laura Benanti
Neville Craven Robert Westenberg Philip Quast Peter Polycarpou* Will Chase
Martha Alison Fraser Susan-Ann Walker Linzi Hateley Celia Keenan-Bolger
Dickon John Cameron Mitchell Tom Blair Jordan Dunne Michael Arden
Colin Craven John Babcock Bart Ritchie / Ross Hannaford Luke Newberry Struan Erlenborn
Ben Weatherstaff Tom Toner Raymond Duprac N/A David Canary
Rose Kay Walbye N/A N/A Sara Gettelfinger
Mrs. Medlock Barbara Rosenblat N/A N/A
Year Award Category Nominee Result
1991 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Book of a Musical Marsha Norman Won
Best Original Score Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Daisy Eagan Won
Alison Fraser Nominated
Best Scenic Design Heidi Landesman Won
Best Costume Design Theoni V. Aldredge Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Nominated
Outstanding Book of a Musical Marsha Norman Nominated
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Mandy Patinkin Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Daisy Eagan Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical John Cameron Mitchell Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Alison Fraser Nominated
Rebecca Luker Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical Susan H. Schulman Nominated
Outstanding Choreography Michael Lichtefeld Nominated
Outstanding Orchestrations William David Brohn Won
Outstanding Lyrics Marsha Norman Nominated
Outstanding Music Lucy Simon Nominated
Outstanding Set Design Heidi Landesman Won
Outstanding Lighting Design Tharon Musser Nominated

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In the original script of the play, the date is indicated as 1906, but the libretto for the Broadway cast album has the conflicting date of 1911.
  2. ^ The lyrics are transcribed in the script and libretto, but not translated; phrased in poetic language, their approximate meaning is "Lo, the season of magic/ The summer days/ Prayers, rituals, and artifacts/ May deliver her from sickness."

References[edit]

  • Norman, Marsha (book and lyrics) and Lucy Simon (music), based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The Secret Garden. Samuel French Inc, 1993.
  • Norman, Marsha (1991). The Secret Garden (CD booklet). New York, NY: Columbia Records. CK48817. 
  1. ^ Rich, Frank.'Garden': The Secret Of Death And Birth,The New York Times, April 26, 1991
  2. ^ The Secret Garden listing allthingsquast.info, accessed February 27, 2009
  3. ^ Royal Shakespeare Company press release
  4. ^ Simonson, Robert."Revamped London Secret Garden May Grow on Broadway", playbill.com, February 28, 2001
  5. ^ Wolf, Matt."Review:"The Secret Garden",Variety, March 5, 2001
  6. ^ Gans, Andrew and Jones, Kenneth."Pasquale, Chase, Benanti, Arden, Von Essen, Keenan-Bolger and Gettelfinger Enter The Secret Garden Dec. 5", playbill.com, December 5, 2005
  7. ^ Mirvish Productions' website http://www.mirvish.com/homepagefeature/anewseason accessed 2010-02-22

External links[edit]