THE SECRET GARDEN; Hale Center Theater Orem, 225 W. 400 North; now through June 2; 7:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday; directed by Neal Johnson; tickets at 801-226-8600 or at haletheater.org; running time 2 hours 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission
OREM — "The Secret Garden" as a musical, put on now by Hale Center Theater Orem, is very different.
The story is told almost entirely through vocals and without much dialogue, but the details of this tale of despair come through.
Archibald Craven, played with heart and skill by equity actor Dallyn Vail Bayles in the Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday cast, is in pain, unable to forgive his beloved Lily, played by Rachel Lynn Woodward (Tuesday/Thursday/Friday) for dying and thus unable to reach out to his bedridden young son.
He's obviously a kind man but he can't see beyond his great sorrow to move on and notice the great need around him. He sloughs off his duties as the head of the household and as a father to his brother Neville, played by Dave Burton (TThS), who is every bit as bitter about Lily's death. (He loved her as well but his love went unrequited.)
When Mary Lennox, a spoiled, bold child played by Maggie Scott (TThS), is orphaned and sent to live with her uncle Archibald, things at the mansion are upset.
Mary, unfazed by the rules she is to obey, discovers Colin, played by Christian Devey (TThS), in his sick bed and his mother's secret garden on the grounds.
Most of us know the story from the book written by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but the musical, directed at Hale by Neal C. Johnson, comes up with ways to make the story new.
The costuming is sumptuous and the set is clever with a twist at the end that is delightful.
Props are perfect, including a three-wheeled wheelchair for Colin and a carriage that really appears to be lumbering across the moors.
Jeremy Showgren has done a masterful job of directing the vocals and pulls engaging performances from each cast member, though Bayles and Woodward shine above the rest.
"Lily's Eyes," sung by Bayles as Archibald and Burton as Neville, is beautiful and haunting, as is "Come to My Garden," sung by Woodward as Lily.
Scott is sweet, curious, courageous and throws a totally believable tantrum in the second act.
Martha, played by Xandra Wille, is every inch the Yorkshire maid.
The Indian soldiers, Mary's parents and the dreamer ghosts are marvelous as they weave in and out of the story, adding color and dimension without breaking down the fourth wall.
There's even a good gardening lesson that translates to life: When a thing is wick, clear away the dead parts, loose the earth and let the roots get warm.
This is a well-told story, but it might, for some men, fall into the category of a "chick flick" drama.
There's so much music and the pace, particularly in the first act, is deliberately slow as the story of the troubled house is laid out.
Lovers of "The Secret Garden" book will quickly disappear into the plotline. Others will probably have some trouble keeping up, especially since events that took months in the book have to happen pretty quickly on stage.
It's a beautifully told tragic story with a happy ending, though, so it's worth the time to see.
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.
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