Review: THE SECRET GARDEN at Theatre Harrisburg

See this beautiful and haunting show through February 27th

By: Feb. 12, 2022
Enter Your Email to Unlock This Article

Plus, get the best of BroadwayWorld delivered to your inbox, and unlimited access to our editorial content across the globe.

Existing user? Just click login.

Review: THE SECRET GARDEN at Theatre Harrisburg

The story of The Secret Garden has captured the hearts and minds of adults and children since its start as an English children's novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett in 1911. The musical features music by Lucy Simon and lyrics and book by Marsha Norman. It first graced the stage in 1989 by the Virginia Stage Company and appeared on Broadway in 1991. It is a story of loss, friendship, love, family, hope, and renewal. Theatre Harrisburg takes on this Tony Award winning musical at the Whitaker Center February 11-27.

Directed by Winnona Piazza and Music Director Mitchell Sensenig, this production of The Secret Garden is, in a word, gorgeous. Every element of this performance-costumes, lighting, set, and staging-works together seamlessly to create an emotional and engaging experience for the audience. The vocal performances in this production are incredible. Their diction is excellent and the intricate harmonies are precise and well-balanced. Every song is performed not only with technical vocal skill but also with emotion that gives the audience chills. The Dreamers, who act as a Greek chorus, include actors Tony Barber (who also gives an endearing performance as Ben Weatherstaff, the gardener), Rebecca Cole and Francis Dy (who add an air of magic and possibility as Ayah and Fakir throughout the show, showcasing their talents in "Come Spirit, Come Charm"), TJ Fausnight, Wendy J. Faust, Darren Riddle, Andrea Crawford. Joining these spirits are Aubrey Krepps as Rose Lennox and Jason Genise-Gdula as Captain Albert Lennox. Krepps has a strong, full tone that is highlighted beautifully in "Quartet" and "A Bit of Earth" (Reprise). Genise-Gdula's beautiful, clear tenor tones make every moment he is on stage a joy to listen to, and his interactions with Charlotte Caples as his daughter Mary Lennox tug on the heartstrings.

During Mary's time at Misselthwaite Manor, we meet the staff, including Mrs. Medlock (Ann Ariano), Ben Weatherstaff (Tony Barber), Jane (Melanie Devorick), Martha (Alison Whipple), and Martha's brother Dickon (Joseph Kelly), as well as Mrs. Winthrop who runs a girls' school (Erika McCandless). These actors work well together, highlighting the tensions and mysteries of the Manor and its grounds. Ariano is wonderful in her role as the strict and seemingly unmovable Mrs. Medlock. Whipple and Kelly are delightful in their roles as brother and sister. Whipple's straightforward, humorous, and compassionate Martha lifts the audience's spirits, particularly in her performance of "A Fine White Horse". Kelly's performance as Dickon is heartwarming and filled with joy. His lilting, clear tones are perfect for "Winter's on the Wing" and "Wick".

Douglas Wann, Charlotte Caples, Sean Meara, Beth Darowish, and Andrew Vinton round out the cast as Colin Craven, Mary Lennox, Dr. Neville Craven, Lily, and Archibald Craven. Their performances are absolutely stellar. Caples infuses Mary with just the right combination of grief, anger, loneliness, and boredom, which give way to curiosity and, eventually, hope and love. Her interactions on stage with the other characters feel authentic and draw the audience into the story. Wann's Colin demonstrates a mixture of bossiness as the young master of the house, loneliness, and fear. Mary eventually draws Colin out and helps him heal not only physically, but also emotionally, and Wann handles this transformation beautifully. Both young actors have lovely voices. Caples demonstrates her vocal ability particularly well in "I Heard Someone Crying" and "Show Me the Key", and Wann captures the audience's hearts with "Round-Shouldered Man". Beth Darowish is astounding in her role as Lily. Her high soprano voice soars seemingly effortlessly, and her harmonies (especially with Vinton's Archibald) are precise and gorgeous. Darowish, Vinton, and Meara give immensely emotional performances, creating an intense experience that comes out in their voices, facial expressions, and body language. Meara and Vinton are well-matched as the two brothers, and their performance of "Lily's Eyes" is heart-wrenching.

This is a performance of The Secret Garden that this reviewer could watch over and over. It is an authentic, emotional, skillful production that brings this classic tale of love, loss, renewal, and hope to life. Do not miss this beautiful show by Theatre Harrisburg at the Whitaker Center. For information on tickets, visit

Photo by Chris Guerrisi


To post a comment, you must register and login.

Vote Sponsor