The Secret Garden – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

What can be more wonderful than to awaken to the lyrical sounds of birdsong, unless it is to sit outdoors in the kalediscope of colors in your garden, a feast for the senses and the soul. A Chinese proverb states “Life begins the day you start a garden.” Gardens teach you respect for the earth, watchfulness, hard work, and patience as you wait for its rewards. In it, you plant the seeds that must be coached and cosseted, encouraged and enjoyed, with your hands in the fertile soil, face to the sun, with water for nourishment, all while communing one on one with nature.

Frances Hodgson Burnett must have been a lover of gardens. In 1911, she published a story about a sick little girl aged ten, Mary Lennox, whose parents have just died in a cholera epidemic in India. This unloved child who so much needs care and companionship is sent to live with her Uncle Archibald, a total stranger, in a mysterious mansion in England. Her uncle is still suffering from the loss of his wife Lily in childbirth and has no skills or time to cope with this sulky and spoiled child.

Once Mary discovers a locked and forbidden space, “The Secret Garden,” and makes three friends Dickon, and his sister Martha the housekeeper, and Colin, her uncle’s invalid son, Mary’s life blossoms. To witness the transformation from an ugly cocoon to a beautiful butterfly, from sickness to health, from abandonment to friendship, fly to ACT, A Contemporary Theatre in Ridgefield by Sunday, June 11 to glow in the warmth and magic of “The Secret Garden The Musical,” with book and lyrics by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon.

Come meet Mary, a determined and forceful Charlotte Ewing, who knows what she wants and needs and works enthusiastically to achieve her goals.

Brian Golub’s Uncle Archibald is so consumed with grief that he allows his doctor brother Neville, a conniving Matt Faucher, to control his household as he wanders aimlessly in search of Lily, a sweet hearted Katie Diamond, who travels with a Greek chorus of ghosts from India to dance and sing of the perils that plague them. Meanwhile Mary is protected by the good spirited Dickon, a lively John Baker, and his sister the kindhearted Laura Woyasz’s Martha as they all work together to rescue DJ Plunkett’s Colin from his dire doom under the care of Neville.

This classic tale is brought to magical musical life thanks to the direction of master garden keeper Daniel Levine, the lovely scenic design by David Goldstein, the innovative costuming of Leslie Bernstein and the incredible video design of Camilla Tassi, where the garden comes to blooming life.

Tunes about houses and horses, eyes and storms, and especially about wicks, spirits and charms are especially meaningful.

For tickets ($76 adult, $69 senior, veteran, youth), call ACT, 36 Old Quarry Road, Ridgefield, at 475- 215-5497 or online at ACTOFCT.ORG. Performances are Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m.

Come to the garden, the secret garden where only a key is the buried tool that leads to the hidden entry way, and your heart will open to the joy of newly discovered love and family, thanks to a little girl on a quest for happiness. Who says a garden can’t be akin to paradise.