THE SECRET GARDEN
Firebirds at Brentwood Theatre
This classic tale has attracted many adapters. There's an opera, as well as the much-loved film. This Broadway version was successfully revived [and revised] by the RSC some years ago.
The saccharine score provides some lovely opportunities for a large cast of accomplished young vocalists. The whole show – arias, underscores, operatic quartets and folksy duets – sounds wonderful, with superb backing from the band under MD Natalie Thurlow.
Memorable performances from the principals – including Rachel Watson's Lily, Tom Carswell as the troubled Uncle Archibald. Young Mary is touching played by Abbie Ward, and the boy Colin is beautifully done by Theo Harris, impressive both as singer and actor.
The magic at the heart of the story is less easy to achieve, as the garden works its charm and old ghosts are exorcised. There are many telling moments – the Robin [Ria Black] as a dancer, the picnic photograph, the Dreamers, a kind of Greek Chorus haunting the stage, the red kerchief cholera. The costumes look splendid too [bar the awful uniforms], but the set is untidy, and the transformations – to sick room, to the glory of the garden - are underwhelming. A shame that not all the blackout scene changes have music cues.
But the packed theatre gave an enthusiastic reception to a welcome revival of an interesting piece of musical theatre, a fine showcase for the talents of this enterprising group. The Secret Garden is directed by Liz Gibson and Allen Clark, who also feature as Headmistress and Head Gardener, and produced by Cathy Edkins, Housekeeper and Indian Ayah.