SALT LAKE CITY — The Secret Garden is one of the most beloved stories in children’s literature, and though many have tried to capture its essence in film and theatre, I have seen few that I’ve been satisfied with. This adaptation by Joanne M. Parker was one of the more honest and refreshing I have come across. It was purely a story of a girl nurturing a lost and forgotten garden and healing herself in the process.
Upon entering the theatre, I found myself drawn in by its inviting atmosphere. No programs were distributed, no names mentioned; the world of the story was all that mattered. Music played softly, and lights in shades of green and gold shown on the thrust stage, creating a welcoming place for children to get out their wiggles before the show began. It was all very magical.
The set itself was one of the greatest achievements of the production. Though the space holds only two rows of seats hedged about on its three sides, this intimate little theatre was very clever in spectacle and used moving projections, changeable sets, and intricate lighting design. One moment we were watching the darkened hallways of Misselthwaite Manor, and the next we where in a transforming garden.
Mary Lennox (Lucy Holmgren) looked perfect for the part, and I am interested in seeing her explore a wider choice of emotions as the run continues. Colin Craven (Cameron Colony) could certainly hit a punchline, but I hope he can find more moments of delicacy and honesty in the coming performances. Perhaps the strongest performance came from Martha, played by Jessica Wilson. She really was impressive and showed great sensitivity and wit in her portrayal.
All in all, I left the theatre feeling pleased with what I saw. While sometimes the script felt a little condescending when explaining things that were implicit in the action, it was very close to the text, and that was refreshing. Though some of the acting was understandably adolescent, the overall effect was quite charming. The children around me were captivated and entertained, and I went home thinking about my own little patch of earth waiting for me as gardening season comes around again.
The Secret Garden plays through April 10th Fridays at 7 PM, Saturdays at 1 PM and 4:30 PM. Performances take place in The Children’s Theatre located at 237 South State Street in Downtown Salt Lake City. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased by phone (801-532-6000) or online at TCTheatre.org.