The Secret Garden at Lake Forest Theatre

Based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Script and Lyrics by Marsha Norman

Music by Lucy Simon

 Directed by Steve Malone

Music Director Aaron Kaplan

The inaugural season opener and the best kept secret in Lake Forest is The Secret Garden!

Who knew spending a night with ghosts could be so delightful? When young Mary (Carly Meyer) awakes from a deep sleep she finds herself alone in India and an orphan. The entire village including her mother and father died of an outbreak of cholera. She is found by a couple of soldiers and sent to Yorkshire, England to live with her next closest relative Uncle Archibald (Edward Fraim). There is something deeply wrong with this house upon the hill and seems a bit haunted. However, soon Mary makes friends with Robin Redbreast a singing bird in the garden and with Martha (Elizabeth Mazur) the Merry Yorkshire Maid. She introduces Mary to fun and is a delightful character. You see, Mary has not experienced a lot of fun after being shut out by her parents and raised by servants, she really does not have high expectations life in general and not a lot of self-esteem. When she meets Uncle Archibald, they are polite to one another and yet it is awkward. Mary reminds him of his late wife Lily (Michelle Jasso) because she has Lily’s eyes and is also passionate about gardening as his wife was.

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Archibald escapes most of the time by traveling and not wanting to face the pain of his wife being gone even though it has been 10 years. One evening Mary discovers crying and howling and finds a young boy Colin (Zachary Fewkes) who is confined to his room and “crippled”. It seems that he was born weak and when Lily brought him into the world she then passed away. Colin also suffers from very low self-esteem and feels that he won’t ever really grow old because he has always been told he will die young by his Uncle Neville (Edward MacLennan) who is Archibald’s younger brother and a doctor. It is Mary that stands up to Colin, talks back to him, and gives him hope and confidence that he has never experienced before.  Although, Dr. Neville claims that he gave up his practice to care for the young lad, there are other not so nice intentions behind that gesture.

The large cast of spirits act as narrators bringing us from India to England throughout the show.  The free spirit and magical brother of Martha, Dickon (Dustin Rothbart), shows Mary that there are good things that can happen and that Mother Nature is such an important part of life. He introduces her formally to Robin Redbreast and conveys Mary’s message of wanting to find the key to that Secret Garden that is locked up and off limits.  Mary finds the key and even though it is against the rules, she explores the unknown garden. It is there she finds solace and life her life is renewed. She tells Colin about it and he had always wanted to see it because it was his mother’s favorite place. I am not going to give the whole show away…..

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There are a lot of twists and turns and a lot of parallels among the characters in this show. Mary and the Robin Redbreast both know what it is like to be alone, Mary and her cousin Colin both don’t feel loved, Archibald and his brother were both in love with Lily, Dickon and Mary both love the earth and Mary’s Aunt Lily’s spirit is so alive and fills the entire show with a delightful and memorable voice and Mary’s voice becomes heard and beautiful memories are made toward the end of the show.

I thought it might be challenging to bring my 9 year old daughter since this is so different from the other shows she is accustomed to seeing. She absolutely loved it and really understood it even pointing out some very valid observations to me.  You are truly going to be thrilled once you attend this brand new beautiful Lake Forest theatre and performance of The Secret Garden.

From where I am sitting, this is a story about hope, about love, and about renewal.  Kudos to all of the actors, the musicians, the costume designer (David Lundholn), the lighting designer (David Miller) and a great thanks to Steve Malone for making this all come together.  What a wonderful show!

Highly Recommended

Sally Jo Osborne

Sjosborne2009@gmail.com

Reviewed June 11, 2016

Performances take place at the newly renovated John& Nancy Hughes Theatre at the Gorton Community Center, 400 E. Illinois Road, Lake Forest, IL.  Single tickets are $49, for more information go to www.lakeforesttheatre.org, call 847-604-4975, or visit www.theatreinchicago.com.

Performances run through July 2.  Running time is two hours and fifteen minutes with one intermission.

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Gorton Community Center

400 East Illinois Road, Lake Forest, IL, United States