BWW Review: THE SECRET GARDEN at Performance Now

BWW Review: THE SECRET GARDEN at Performance Now Even though its source material is a children's book, The Secret Garden plays on stage with a complex emotional maturity.

Premiering on Broadway in 1991, The Secret Garden's book and lyrics are by Marsha Norman, with music by Lucy Simon. It's based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel from 1911. Performance Now Theatre Company is presenting the musical through this weekend at the Lakewood Cultural Center.

The story is set in the early 20th century. While living in India, young Mary Lennox (Hazel Kachline) loses her parents and nearly everyone she knows to a cholera outbreak. These dead characters serve as a ghostly chorus throughout the production, providing a bit of narrative texture.

Mary is sent to live with her Uncle Archibald Craven (Jeremy Rill), who resides in a large house with his brother, Neville (Lars Preece), and several others who work on the property. Archibald, who lost his wife, Lily (Carolyn Lohr), during childbirth, still remains in a dark depression.

Mary forms a bond with her chambermaid, Martha (Abby McInerney), and her brother, Dickon (Shaun McClellan), who frequently inhabits in the gardens of the property. Mary learns Lily had a secret garden with a concealed door that has remained untouched since her death. Mary also discovers Archibald and Lily had a son, Colin (Jackson Oliver Coleman), who has been kept in his room nearly his whole life while his Uncle Neville treats his crippling condition.

BWW Review: THE SECRET GARDEN at Performance NowThe musical explores the depths of loss and the effects it has on the human experience. As Mary finds a new family, her Uncle Archibald comes to terms with the loss of his wife and begins to accept his role as a father to Colin, whom he has unfavorably associated with Lily's death his entire life.

Directed and choreographed by Kelly Van Oosbree, Performance Now's The Secret Garden features a powerhouse cast. Kachline plays Mary with a mature approach, tackling the character's complexities with purity. Rill's rich voice amplifies Archibald's emotions, exposing the character's inner turmoil on a tangible level. Preece produces a textured performance as Neville.

BWW Review: THE SECRET GARDEN at Performance NowLohr brings a warmth to Lily, complemented by her gorgeous soprano voice. As Martha, McInerney's commanding vocals are balanced with a sincere performance. Likewise, McClellan's jovial performance as Dickon features an impressive display of singing.

Costume design by Ann Piano does a nice job of exhibiting England's Edwardian era, with sophisticated and ornate details. Scenic design by Robert Prytherch is straightforward with nice an acceptable amount of foliage, but I would have appreciated a bit more flowers in the garden. Van Oosbree's choreography had several standout moments, including a beautifully performed duet.

Performance Now's The Secret Garden continues performances through Sunday, July 1. Tickets are available at PerformanceNow.org or at the Lakewood Cultural Center box office.

Photos by RDG Photography

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