“A bit of earth
She wants a little bit of earth”
~ The Secret Garden by Lucy Simon & Marsha Norman
One of my favourite books as a child, The Secret Garden is a story that every little girl knows and is beloved by people across the world. So finding out there is a musical gave me mixed feelings – would it bring this beautiful tale to life or ruin it forever?
Born in India, Mary Lennox is a child neglected by her parents who are too busy to pay her any attention. When they die, she is sent to live with her widowed uncle in an isolated manor house on the Yorkshire moors.
But this house holds many mysteries: a garden left forgotten behind a locked door covered in ivy and an invalid child kept shut in his bedroom.
Anastasia Martin as Mary is a pleasure to watch, capturing her character’s initial sullenness, her innocence and spirit perfectly. Her rapport with Dickon (Jordan Lee-Davies) is particularly charming.
Writer Marsha Norman has also chosen to show more of the relationship between Colin’s parents (Zoë Curlett and Alexander Evans), which was lovely to see and very touching.
Songs have an essence of those from Les Misérables, but have their own innocent charm. Each performer is a delight to listen to and although several songs are almost operatic (maybe slightly unsuitable considering the number of children in the audience) the lyrics and melodies are moving and emotional, particularly the Storm musical numbers and Round-Shouldered Man.
If I had one criticism, it would be that the musical version all but forgets the formidable Mrs Medlock (Pippa Winslow), whilst Dr Craven (portrayed brilliantly by Ian Knauer) becomes a central character.
However, the story loses none of its original magic (I was close to tears when Colin walked) and is a musical adaptation that Frances Hodgson Burnett would surely approve of.
This review was originally written for West End Wilma in 2013.
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