Theatre Review: The Secret Garden Blooms in Musical Pageantry

Secret Garden

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Prepare yourself to end the search for a wandering key and unlock the concealed door to your heartstrings as The Chance Theater opens the gate to an everlasting journey into The Secret Garden.

The Secret Garden resonates with the spirit of loving connection out from the pit of despair through personal loss and misguided notions of life in the aftermath of sorrow. Seeking redemption and healing unfathomable pain from building up walls, locking the door, and throwing away the key and sealing the memories not only drying out bad moments but the good ones as well. Unknowingly making matters worse than need to be. Fortunately, the innocence and unrelenting perseverance of one little girl becomes determined to awaken what was put to uneasy rest by estranged acquaintances. The Secret Garden sets itself as a visual and musical characterization of the resiliency of the human soul, sprouting growth, and strength of companionship.

Secret Garden

In the early years of the 20th century, sweet Mary Lennox (Catherine Last) was orphaned after her parents fell ill with a terrible disease. Now relocated to live in unfamiliar territory with a relative she hardly met. Disillusioned Archibald Craven (Troy Dailey) himself struggles with the painful grief of his dearly departed wife. Graceful Lily Craven (Laura M. Hathaway) appears to Mary as an apparition with mysterious serenades that guide the little girl’s will. Archibald leaves the care of his irritable son Colin Craven (Charlie Firlik) to his patronizing brother Dr. Neville Craven (Kyle Critelli).

Housekeepers Martha (Sarah Pierce) and Ayah (Trina Estanislao) uphold Archibald’s unwavering desires that keep the home and its occupants in perpetual darkness. Groundskeepers starry-eyed Dickon (Christopher Diem) and compassionate Ben Weatherstaff (Matthew Noah) plant the seeds that spark Mary’s curiosity that gradually pry and nurture a dormant pocket thought to be long gone and forgotten. Select showtimes will feature Elizabeth Last as Mary and Jacob Voight as Colin.

Secret Garden

The haunting vocals with accompanying live piano tunes express an ominous aura that compliments the gloomy tone and atmosphere of the mournful story. Glimpses into past lives of arguments, despair, and separation become all too relatable. The astounding performance digs deep to uncover the audience down to its grounded characters. It is bringing everyone together and strengthening a family bond from the shadowy ashes.

A musical journey of a broken home enchanted by a little girl to rediscover and regrow a lost family. Beauty and the Beast meets A Christmas Carol. The high value of the production design frames the set with wooden boards and vintage antiques. Video projections of watercolor scenery branch over wall space to transport and transition between locales.

A breathtaking moment just before the end of Act One has Mary finally opening the hidden gate to the abandoned and secluded patch of earth. The visual crescendo was like seeing Alice walking through the looking glass in Wonderland. The Secret Garden symbolizes the human potential to weather out the demons that plague the mind and find nourishment amidst loved ones.

Secret Garden

Tony Award winner for Best Book of a Musical. Tony Award nominated for Best Original Score. Book and lyrics by Marsha Norman (Broadway musical, The Color Purple). Music by Grammy Award winner Lucy Simon. Based on the beloved 1911 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Directed by Casey Long (Chance Resident Director and co-founder) and KC Wilderson (Principal Media and Video Designer for Disneyland Resort Live Entertainment). Music Direction by Gabrielle Maldonado. Choreography by Robert Hahn.

The Secret Garden is now playing on select evenings until December 23, 2023 at the Chance Theater at 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, CA 92802. Call (888) 455-4212 or for more information and to purchase tickets. This upcoming season is full of highly anticipated shows, plays, and musicals from Hedwig and the Angry Inch to Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.