The classic story The Secret Garden, written by Frances Hodgson Burnett in 1911 still finds itself being told to audiences today. Our Denver Center for the Performing Arts has adapted the novel into an all-ages theater musical at the Stage Theater downtown. The show has two Acts totaling 28 original songs by Marsha Norman, composed by Lucy Simon and directed by Brooklyn-based Jenn Thompson who has worked all over the US.
The story follows a child named Mary who is sent to live with her uncle after the death of her parents. She is sent to a big, solitary mansion on the Moors of England where she finds herself in a creepy, old estate left to her Uncle Archibald who lives in a state of grief and fear. Mary slowly learns the stories of the people both living there and deceased and uncovers all kinds of secrets. But when she uncovers the key to her late aunt’s long-lost garden, she becomes determined to turn things around for everyone by reviving the beauty that once flourished. Surrounded by spirits of the past, she uses the magic of hope to help the world around her grow once again.
The cast of 22, orchestra and a stage crew of about 30 people make all the magic happen on and off stage such as smooth backdrop and scene changes, lighting and fog effects, and overall flow and presentation so the story comes to life. The vocal acrobatics and the abnormal amount of contrapuntal pieces in this musical made it a full-sensory experience. The plot line was well developed and the characters, half of who were deceased spirits guiding the living, created a complexity for the adult audience. Most of the play was more adult in tone and plot in our opinion, especially as it was set in a haunted mansion and dealt frequently with death, hardship and loss on multiple levels. Alas, all is not lost and the characters and garden find renewed life.
The show runs approximately 2 hours 10 minutes with one 15-minute intermission. Ticket prices vary by date and availability, and there are both matinee and evening performances on the weekends through May 28th.
Words by Tiffany Candelaria