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Review: THE SECRET GARDEN at Marian Theater

Now playing in Santa Maria through December 23rd

Joss Robertson and Christen Celaya in The Secret Garden at PCPA's Marian Theater. Photo by Luis Escobar.
Joss Robertson and Christen Celaya in The Secret Garden at PCPA's Marian Theater. Photo by Luis Escobar.

The Secret Garden, PCPA's enchanting holiday musical, will delight the whole family with its hopeful, heartfelt story of love, loss, and regeneration.

At the opening of the show, the audience takes in the impressive sight of the stage's back wall, where arching rows of a garden hedge appear as an imposing maze. This image, which provides a backdrop for the rest of the scenic changes, then transforms into a Hindu labyrinth when the story moves to India. There, a young English girl, Mary Lennox (London Raftery/Joss Robertson), finds herself abandoned when an outbreak of Cholera takes her parents' lives.

Abandonment and mourning are the real snakes in the grass of The Secret Garden, although the characters of the housekeeper (Kitty Balay) and the doctor (Erik Stein) constantly menace our intrepid heroine. Whisked away from India to a new home on the Yorkshire moors, Mary meets her uncle, Archibald Craven (Eduardo Enrikez) for the first time.

Soon, Mary begins hearing the sounds of someone crying at night and realizes that the house has "something wrong inside it," as the song "The House Upon A Hill" informs us. Her uncle proceeds to neglect Mary because she bears a painful resemblance to his deceased wife, Rose (Jennie Greenberry). The poignancy of the love story between uncle Archibald and Rose allows us to pity Archibald rather than blame him for his desertion.

The music for the show carries its dramatic tension with eerie melodies and encompassing the audience like wuthering wind on the Yorkshire moors and cheerful melodies when the plot resolves. Jennie Greenberry as Rose haunts the score with her mellifluous and rich voice.

Mary's curiosity and tenacity drive her to figure out the source of the evening cries. With the help of the housemaid, Martha (Christen Celaya), Martha's brother, Dickon (Tyrone Jones), gruff gardener, Ben Weatherstaff (Andrew Philpot), and an enchanted robin (Ksa Curry, puppeteer), Mary reinvigorates the dormant, neglected gardens and people buried in grief and shame. It's a heart-warming story of reclaiming joy and connection even in the wake of loss.

This production would not create its emotional pull without strong performances from the young cast members playing Mary Lennox and Colin Craven. The roles are double cast. At the matinee, Joss Robertson portrayed Mary marvelously, projecting terrifying tantrums and then swiftly changing to endearing song. Also at the matinee, Mo Lopez's Colin pulled on on the audience's heartstrings as the bed-ridden boy, desperately in need of a friend.

The Secret Garden provides a perfect occasion for celebrating the season and reflecting on the times for growth ahead. See it; bring everyone you know.

From This Author - Anna Jensen

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