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The Secret Garden at APAC

May 3, 2012

Last night I was fortunate enough to check out the final rehearsal for the musical The Secret Garden, opening tonight from The Astoria Performing Arts Center. Everyone in NYC should take a quick trip to Astoria, Queens to check out this lovely production (and have a delicious dinner at one of Astoria’s crazy good restaurants as well).

From APAC’s Website: “Living in a lonely manor house in 1906 England, Archibald Craven yearns for his beautiful, late wife. He blames his crippled son, Colin, for his wife’s death and has left him neglected and isolated. Their quiet routine is turned upside down when young Mary Lennox, a rich, spoiled child, is sent to live with them following the death of her parents by cholera in India. While living at the manor house, Mary discovers a secret walled garden hidden in the grounds and releases the magic and adventures locked inside, changing their lives forever. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Marsha Norman, in collaboration with composer Lucy Simon, achieved Broadway success with the moving book and lyrics adapted from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved 1911 novel. Using the classic form of the traditional American musical, they have fashioned a faithful rendition of the novel, equally appealing to children and adults, to devotees of the novel and to The Secret Garden newcomers as well.”

This has been one of my favorite musicals since I first saw it as a young girl when the touring company traveled the country back in the early 90s. I’ve known the words to all of the songs ever since, but this production made them fresh and new in my mind and revitalized old memories. One of my favorite lines in the show is when young Mary asks Uncle Archibald if everyone who dies becomes a ghost. His reply is the melancholy, “They’re only a ghost if someone alive is still holding on to them,” which reflects the themes of letting go, moving on, and especially regrowth, both garden and personal.

Highlights of the show include an utterly gorgeous set designed by Michael P. Kramer that turns an old church theater into a stunning English manor. Stoic paintings and ornate accents give way to a lovely transformation that I won’t reveal in this write up, but the outcome is simply gorgeous. Patrick Porter delivers a heart wrenching performance as Archibald Craven, Mary’s reclusive uncle who continues to mourn the loss of his wife while his lonely son lives on, quarantined away. His “Race You to the Yop of the Morning” was surprisingly funny, yet bittersweet. Porter’s heartache, his lovely numbers and the close of both acts moved me to some unexpected tears. Hannah Lewis puts forth a feisty, rebellious Mary Lennox and Benjamin J. McHugh creates a Dr. Neville Craven that somehow garners sympathy; a feeling I had never had for the character before. Jennifer Evans is a lovely Lily, with a peaceful tone and hypnotizing presence. Her ghostly duet of “Come To My Garden” with the young Colin, the adorable Sam Poon, was particularly moving and reminded the audience that little Colin is also mourning a loss; something Archibald perhaps never noted. With direction by Tom Wojtunik, whose slight alterations provide fascinating results, this production of a little seen musical is a fantastic addition for this blooming theater company.

The Secret Garden opens tonight, May 3rd and runs Thursdays-Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm until May 19th.

Good Shepherd United Methodist Church
30-44 Crescent St (@30th Rd)
Astoria, NY 11102

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