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Washington DC by Tracy Lyon

The Secret Garden

Also see Tracy's review of Bat Boy

An orphaned little girl, a boy who can talk to wildlife and a hidden garden are just a few of the many elements that make up Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic children's novel, The Secret Garden. Published in the early 1900s, the tale of reaffirmation has been presented in a variety of ways. Over the years there have been film and television adaptations, and in 1990 it was brought to the Broadway stage in the form of a musical. Now that musical is being produced by the Olney Theatre Center for the Arts.

The Secret Garden focuses on young Mary Lennox. Mary travels to Yorkshire, England, to live with her uncle following the death of her parents as a result of a cholera epidemic in India. Mary's uncle, Archibald Craven, is a broken man who continues to be grief-stricken over the death of his beloved wife. Even though his wife's death occurred ten years earlier, time has not eased his pain. Uncle Archibald's house is a dreary place for the child until she discovers a mysterious secret garden.

The Secret Garden
John Scherer and Rita Glynn
The OTC has created a lovely production. All of the work done by the creative team serves to enhance Marsha Norman's wonderful book and lyrics, as well as Lucy Simon's lush music. For starters, the set design by Daniel Conway is worthy of note. Conway uses only a few set pieces. However, a backdrop is replaced by projected images that give depth and character to the set. Scott Pinkney's lighting enhances the effect by adding definition.

Director John Going has made some good choices in this production and the cast is top-notch. John Scherer, who performed on Broadway in By Jeeves, plays Archibald Craven. Scherer is both vulnerable and tormented in this role and the result is quite stunning. Another Broadway veteran, Rita Glynn (Jane Eyre), delivers an excellent portrayal of Mary. She is very skilled for one so young.

The cast includes some familiar faces from DC theater as well. Local actor Stephen Gregory Smith (Street Scene) is delightful as Dickon, the young man who has a passion for nature. Helen Hayes Award winner Sherri L. Edelen (She Loves Me, Sunday In The Park With George, Side Show) is superb as Martha, his lively sister who works in the Craven household. Ms. Edelen's performance of "Hold On" is truly a showstopper. Her former She Loves Me cast mate, Peggy Yates, sings the role of Lucy beautifully. Another She Loves Me alum, Stephen F. Schmidt, is sadly underused as Mary's father. The talented actor is the Archibald Craven understudy, and it would be interesting to see his interpretation of the role.

The Secret Garden plays well to adults and children alike. However, the show runs over two hours and may be a bit long for younger children. That being said, the OTC's production of The Secret Garden is a heart-warming theatrical experience. The show serves as a fitting conclusion to a strong 2002 season. The Secret Garden runs through December 29th.

Olney Theatre Center
The Secret Garden
November 19th - December 29th
Book and Lyrics by Marsha Norman
Music by Lucy Simon
Based on the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Directed by John Going
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD 20832
Ticket Information: (301) 924-3400 or www.olneytheatre.org

Cast List (in order of appearance)

Lily: Peggy Yates
Fakir: Nehal Joshi
Ayah: Mary Payne
Mary Lennox: Rita Glynn
Rose Lennox: Eileen Ward
Captain Albert Lennox: Stephen F. Schmidt
Major Holmes: Daniel Felton
Claire: Joanne Schmoll
Lieutenant Ian Shaw: Steven Tipton
Alice: Jennifer Timberlake
Major Cartwright: Joe Peck
Lieutenant Peter Wright: Steven Tipton
Major Shelley: Joe Peck
Archibald Craven: John Scherer
Dr. Neville Craven: Christopher Flint
Mrs. Medlock: Corrie James
Martha: Sherri L. Edelen
Ben Weatherstaff: Harry A. Winter
Dickon: Stephen Gregory Smith
Colin Craven: Justin Spencer Pereira
Mrs. Winthrop: Joanne Schmoll


Photo: Stan Barouh


-- Tracy Lyon


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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