The Secret Garden | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Secret Garden

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Mistress Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? In this 1991 Broadway musical based on the classic children's novel, young Mary Lennox's secret garden--a metaphor for the hidden hearts of two emotionally wounded children and their reclusive guardian--blossoms beautifully. The reasons include a lyrical score flavored with Celtic and Indian elements; a witty, never cloying script; staging that emphasizes full-bodied story telling and a plethora of interesting characters; a dramatically solid, rich-voiced cast; and exquisite, evocative scenery in the elaborate style of turn-of-the-century storybooks. Heidi Landesman's set is never ornate for its own sake, its visual density reflects the complex psychological texture that composer Lucy Simon (Carly's sister and onetime singing partner), librettist Marsha Norman, and director Susan H. Schulman have sensitively preserved in adapting Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1911 story, about an orphan sent to live in a spooky mansion inhabited by her embittered uncle and sickly cousin. This atmospheric touring production embraces the source's gothic-romance and ghost-story elements while conveying a nurturing sensibility far too rare in the commercial theater. The result is an enormously satisfying family show that never condescends, to adults or to children (who were rapt during the two-and-a-half-hour matinee I saw). Shubert Theatre, 22 W. Monroe, 902-1500. Through February 13: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7:30 PM; Wednesdays, 2 and 7:30 PM; Fridays, 8 PM; Saturdays, 2 and 8 PM; Sundays, 3 PM. $24.50-$52. Members of the company appear in Passion for Life, a cabaret performance, at the Palmer House Hilton's Empire Room, 17 E. Monroe, on Monday, February 7, at 8 PM. Admission is $15, with proceeds going to Season of Concern and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights

AIDS; for information, call 641-0393.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Carol Rosegg-Martha Swope Associates.

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