THE TALE OF THE GARDEN CAN BE DARK AT TIMES BUT THE SHINE YOU FIND WILL DELIGHT YOUR FAMILY
The holidays have arrived at 42nd Street Moon continues their 25th season of musicals in San Francisco. Their current production of THE SECRET GARDEN, based on the 1910 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett runs through Dec. 24th at The Gateway theatre in San Francisco. It is the perfect charm to fill out your holiday theatre season. Executive Director Daren A.C. Carollo has brought an all women craft team to stage this beautiful production he says “ We have three amazing women helming this production - the first Tony winning show with both music and lyrics by women. 42 St Moon is committed to ensuring that all voices can be heard through our productions and we look to the next twenty-five years with all the talented and passionate minds that hold this art form dear.”
Directed by Dylan McBride, crafts an elegant production, and brings the Burnett's story a gifted treat for Bay Area audiences. McBride says “How do we move forward in life when the pain of the past is so powerful? Can the natural world speak to us in hidden, magical, healing ways? For me, The Secret Garden is the perfect musical to delve into three of my favorite topics: girls, gardens and ghosts. With a stellar cast and a gifted creative team, I feel privileged to help bring this beautiful show to life.”
There is an enchanting quality to this 1911 classic, the story of a 10 year old Mary Lennox orphaned after her parents die of cholera and sent from her home in India to live in England. It becomes a tale of rebirth and redemption. THE SECRET GARDEN is based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel of the same name. It was transformed into a musical by Marsha Norman, with music by Lucy Simon. The Broadway show, opened in 1991 to positive reviews, ran over 700 performances.
“There’s a Girl” opens the two and half hour story and it is skillfully performed by the 15 member ensemble. The story begins in 1906 India, young Lennox played the compelling Katie Maupin, Mary who is a silver spoon, somber child of wealthy English parents stationed in Colonial India. Her safe world is destroyed by the death of her family. Once she arrives in England with her uncle, Archie, played by the exceptional Brian Watson, at his cold gray mansion filled with secrets and surrounded by a vast garden. Under the watchful, loving presence of dozens of ghosts, most especially the loving Aunt Lily played by the beautiful Sharon Rietkerk. Lily’s lovely voice enhances every scene she’s in as she watches over her grieving husband and the son who never knew her and she sings “A Girl in The Valley”.
The story follows Mary as she tries to understand her uncle Archie and his brother Neville. The bedridden youngest member of the cast, Tyler Groshong shines as the sickly Colin. The garden becomes a metaphorical home of growth and enlightenment for Mary, Colin and eventually her Uncle. Maupin is excellent in the role of the sometimes angry yet compassionate Mary and her opening song “I Heard Someone Crying” is stunning. Local favorite Edward Hightower plays the villain of sorts, Dr. Neville Craven who oversees young Colin’s recovery and is given the rule over Mary after her Uncle leaves. Hightower who is one of the Bay Area’s best actors brings fear into Mary’s new life and is excellent in his superb solo “Disappear.” Watson as the hurting Uncle has some commanding solos that are excellent including “A Bit of Earth” that fills the Gateway Theatre with his powerful performance.
Mary is befriended by Martha played by the magnetic Heather Orth, a chambermaid who shows her respect and concern. Mary explores the grounds and makes the acquaintance of Dickon played by the vibrant Keith Pinto, a young gardener. He shares with her that Lily’s once beautiful garden has been allowed to fall in disrepair but allows her to explore the hidden space. Orth is wonderful in her solo “A Fine White Horse” and the foolproof Pinto brings so much charm to his on stage time with Mary highlighted in the song “Show Me The Key.” Later Pinto is pure stride in the song and dance “Wick” Choreographed by Robyn Tribuzi. She brings the magic to the Garden and the house ghosts, highlighted by David Lam’s deep warm lighting design. Making his debut at the 42nd St Moon stage, Brian Watson wearing two hats as actor and the marvelous set designer, he brings this inventive setting projection screens and entry ways that take us to the Garden.
Music director Lauren Mayer and her three piece orchestra kept the sometimes moody score and operatic tone enchanting as we follow Mary's adventure to the Garden. Katie Maupin as the young Mary, is on stage throughout the musical and shows her many moods as the anxed girl and is likable in the song “It's A Maze”. The supporting cast is excellent featuring Rietkerk as the ghost of Lily, (Archie's true love) is a constant presence: an observer to Archie's relentless moods, Colin's fears of dying, and Mary's sullen moods. Rietkerk has an experienced voice and is superb with Groshong in “Come to My Garden”. The grand Amanda Johnson returns to the Gateway stage as Rose, Mary's mother, who appears in flashbacks, and does a skillful pitch perfect performance in the reprise of “A Bit of Earth”.
The shining Heather Orth brings some needed comic moments to the Garden as Martha her caregiver and is a joy on stage especially in her solo “Hold On” and duet with Maupin “Letter Song”. Other outstanding performance include the stern headmistress Mrs. Wedlock played by the feisty Lucinda Hitchcock Cone. Scott Hays, Corinne Rydman, Ryan Henry, are cast as the Dreamers and other memory’s and ghosts that visit the story. Fakir and Ayha, part of the Indian storyline are so smooth in their stage presence performed by the polished Michael Mohammed and Anjali Blacker. Their song with the main cast “Come Spirit, Come Charm” is the showstopper of the second act.
A highlight of this production is the elegant earth tone costumes designed by Rebecca Valention and her team Suzy James Edwards, and Tracie Davis. The Indian gowns and sashes work well against the tones of the Goth Manor and the white capes and gowns for the Dreamers is ghostly correct. Lily and Medlock look is outstanding and in the final scene Lily’s gown is glowing. Lams lighting design includes some dramatic back lighting to introduce the enchanted look. The props created by Darcia Tipton high lighted by Dickon’s walking stick and the perfect wheelchair for Colin. Stage manager Alicea Lerner fills out the all female creative team, and of course makes sure each actor was on cue. Key Art Design is by the amazing DC Scarpelli, and Watson continued with the entire look of the production and create all the projections for each majestic scene.
Director McBride creative spirit is stamped all over this production. The story is clearly developed, the pacing holds the audience’s attention, the pathos, and the overall effect is aesthetically exquisite. She is aided by excellent choreography by Tribuzi. Her concept for “Come Spirit, Come Charm” is powerful. The score is beautiful featuring songs with Indian and classical emphasis. THE SECRET GARDEN is the perfect holiday treat to add to your winter theatre evening. Of course you can see the many Christmas Carols, but a trip to this Garden is an enchantment in my opinion a better suggestion. Up next the 25th Anniversary season will continue in 2018 with the Northern California debut of Stephen Sondheim's Saturday Night, that opens March 28. The season will closes with the hilarious British musical Me and My Girl by Noel Gay, Douglas Furber, and L. Arthur Rose. But in the meantime add this gorgeous SECRET GARDEN to end your 2017 theatre season.
42nd Street Moon
continues its 25th anniversary season with
The Secret Garden
Book by Marsha Norman, and music by Lucy Simon
Directed by Dyan McBride, Music Director Lauren Mayer
Gateway Stage 215 Jackson Street
San Francisco Ca
Must Close Dec 24th
Tickets on sale now at http://42ndstmoon.org
Photos by Ben Krantz
Company: Brian Watson as "Archibald Craven" (42nd Street Moon debut), Edward Hightower* as "Neville Craven," Katie Maupin as "Mary Lennox" (42nd Street Moon debut), Tyler Groshong as "Colin," Sharon Rietkerk* as "Lily," Keith Pinto* as "Dickon," Heather Orth as "Martha," Amanda Johnson* as "Rose/Dreamer," Ryan Lee Henry as "Albert/Dreamer," Scott Hayes as "Ben/Lt. Wright/Dreamer," Michael Mohammed as "Fakir/Dreamer," Lucinda Hitchcock Cone* as "Mrs. Medlock/Dreamer," Corinne Rydman as "Claire/Dreamer" (42nd Street Moon debut), Terry McLaughlin as "Major Holmes/Dreamer" (42nd Street Moon debut) and Anjali Blacker as "Ayah/Dreamer."
42nd Street Moon’s production of The Secret Garden features an all-female creative team, in honor and celebration of the musical’s authors Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon (and of Frances Hodgson Burnett, who wrote the original novel). The production will be directed by Dyan McBride (42nd Street Moon’s Holiday hit Scrooge in Love!), with musical direction by Lauren Mayer and choreography by Robyn Tribuzi (making her 42nd Street Moon debut).