The Secret Garden at the Ambassadors Theatre
At the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End, the new 75 minute version of the Tony Award winning The Secret Garden: Spring Version is a charming success. Designed for a more youthful audience, the musical is moving and relevant for adults as well. Directed by Rupert Hands with music and lyrics by Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman, some of the scenes have been edited to focus more on the children and the result is in fact more faithful to the original novel.
The Secret Garden is the story of Mary Lennox, a little girl who lost her parents to cholera in India and has returned to England to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven. The latter mourns his beloved wife, Lily, who died in childbirth, and cannot bear to be around Mary because of her resemblance to Lily. Cared for by Archibald’s brother, Dr Neville Craven (Stuart Nunn), Archibald’s son Colin is a supposed cripple, confined to his room because of his frailty. Little Colin believes he’s going to die, imagining he has a lump on his back (“if I live I’ll be a hunchback”). Mary Lennox is touchingly lonely: “You don’t want me, nobody wants me,” but rebellious, defiant and courageous: her stubbornness ultimately saves the day. Hearing ghostly voices in the house, she is drawn to her Aunt Lily’s neglected garden, which becomes a source of rebirth and happiness for all.
With an impressive cast of child actors who perform beautifully, the talented and plucky Alana Hinge as Mary Lennox is particularly excellent. Sam Proctor is terrific as young Colin, Craven’s “crippled” son. The adult actors are equally top-notch, including George Mulryan as an impressive Archibald Craven, Scarlett Smith, a sweet and distinctive, ghostly Lily, along with Samantha Bingley as the charismatic housekeeper, Martha, and the talented Matthew Nicholas as the inspired Dickon. Lucy Simon’s musical scores are lovely and well performed with first-rate vocals.
Creating a smoothly flowing performance, Jamie Neale’s exquisite choreography includes elegantly danced set changes. The attractive scene design by Lizzie Leech consists of early 1900s interiors draped with blossoms and foliage, with garlands of flowers hanging over the stage to represent the secret garden in bloom.
Although at first glance the piece might seem a little dated, the storyline and excellent presentation quickly absorb the audience. A lovely, superbly directed musical for both children and adults, The Secret Garden is uplifting, entertaining and outstanding.
The Secret Garden is on at the Ambassadors Theatre from 27th July until 31st August 2016. Book your tickets here.