Reviewed by Ceri Horner
The Secret Garden is a musical stage adaption by Marsha Norman of the enchanting 1911 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Mary Lennox lives a spoilt and privileged life in Colonial India until she is suddenly orphaned. She is taken to Yorkshire to live with her uncle Archibald Craven in his haunted mansion with a mysterious secret garden. It is here that Mary learns to look beyond her own selfish needs and makes her first friends.
Laura Williams was delightfully precocious as Mary Lennox and is matched well with Jack Raftopoulos as Colin Craven her sickly cousin. Despite a few opening night nerves both show great promise.
Mark Oates as Archibald Craven and Carolyn Ferrie as the ghost of his wife Lily both sing beautifully and have great presence. Sarah Nagy excels as Martha the kind and generous maid who helps Mary to adjust to her new Yorkshire life.
Standout performances also come from Ian Andrew as Dickon and Anne Doherty as Mrs Medlock who’s accents are remarkably consistent. However, the real star of this production is Andrew Crispe in the role of Dr Neville Craven, the uncle with a sinister agenda. Crispe is perfectly cast and his duet with Oates ‘Lily’s Eyes’ is a highlight.
Daniel Brunner does a fine job as first time Musical Director, sensitively supporting the singers and bringing out the rich and haunting texture of Lucy Simons beautiful score while the ensemble sing note perfect, as you might expect from any good G&S chorus.
The overly simple sets helped to keep the show moving along without scene changes, but some are so bland that it was a little distracting, as were the ill-fitting costumes worn by Oates and most of the male chorus.
It is always a pleasure to see an amateur production where the technical crew have their act together by opening night. The fairy lights in Act Two added a warm and unique touch and helped to create some magic just where it was needed. This production, Directed by Rick Trevaskis is worth the ticket price just for the duets alone.