The Secret Garden at Artistry Theater

It’s the time of year when the trees are budding, flowers are sprouting through the dirt, and the world is turning green and coming back to life. But nature isn’t the only thing bursting into bloom. You can find flowers, springtime, and joy on stage at Artistry’s The Secret Garden.

The Secret Garden is a musical based on the classic children’s book. Mary Lennox is a spoiled and sour child sent to live with her uncle, whom she has never met, after her parents and all their servants die of a cholera epidemic in India. Unfortunately for Mary, her new home is lonely rather than happy. Mary hates the house (which might be haunted), the moor (with its ceaseless wind), and the people in it (though they are mostly kind to her). Mary’s uncle, Archibald Craven, is even less welcoming. He isn’t cruel but is extremely distant, still devastated by the loss of his wife years before. He hardly sees his niece, entrusting her care to his brother and servants.

Mary spends her days wandering the grounds and soon learns of the “secret” garden there. It belonged to her aunt, Archibald’s beloved Lily, but after her death, it was locked and declared off limits. Mary becomes obsessed with the thought of the garden and tries to find the door hidden in the stone walls covered with ivy.

The Secret Garden’s characters are broken in many ways, but—just as roses will grow again after winter and neglect—they make their peace with the ghosts haunting the house and their pasts, and they begin to thrive.

I remember loving this story when I read it as a kid, and I was excited to see the stage adaptation. I wasn’t disappointed. Seeing the show brought back everything I’d forgotten about the book, and it was all made sweeter because I was able to understand the story on a much deeper level as an adult. However, I wouldn’t recommend this show just for adults. It’s a great show for older children (who can sit through the length of the show) because Mary’s journey—or, let’s just exploit the garden theme and say “growth”—from spoiled and sad to happy and generous is relatable.

Young and old, the actors were a treat to watch and hear. I particularly enjoyed seeing the women’s various dresses (thanks to costume designer Ed Gleeman and his team) and  Martha (played by Gracie Anderson) and Dickon’s (Seth Tycoon) Yorkshire accents (thanks to dialect coach Keely Wolter). I was also thoroughly impressed by Kate Regan, who played Mary Lennox at the performance I saw. Lennox is also played by Caitlyn Carroll, who is the lead at the majority of performances.

The part of the show that didn’t quite click were the moments when Mary suddenly broke into Indian chants. When I thought of it afterward, I understood how it could work in the script—Mary was living in India after all, and was mostly cared for by Indian servants. However, during the show, I was taken aback, and I viewed these moments less as Mary taping into a familiar spirituality during moments of importance or stress and more as a strange departure from the focus on nature and the Cravens’ family dynamics.

What works in this performance, though, far outweighs what doesn’t. The transitions between scenes are smooth (my favorite was how they engineered the train scene) and, as with all great musicals, the songs are impactful.

The Secret Garden is as enchanting as its title suggests. It’s about growth, it’s about renewal. It’s the perfect story for spring, and a beautiful thing to see come to life.

★★★★


Book Your Tickets:
The Secret Garden
April 15 – May 14
Tickets: Adults $41, seniors $36, 30 and under $12

Artistry at Bloomington Center for the Arts
1800 W Old Shakopee Road
Bloomington, MN 55431

Running Time: 2.5 hours with intermission

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