LU theatre airs its ‘Secrets’

Joseph Pfender

“The Secret Garden,” a musical childhood favorite of many in our generation, will be presented to Lawrence and the Appleton community this weekend, courtesy of the Lawrence University theatre arts department.
The plot revolves around Mary Lennox, a young orphan who is sent to her uncle Archibald Craven after her parents die in India. Archibald’s wife, Lily, died 10 years earlier in a circumstance mysterious to Mary and the audience. The action takes place in Archibald’s mansion in Yorkshire, England, where Archibald is so distracted by his depression over the loss of Lily that he fails to see Mary for herself. In this new and liberating context, Mary meets a servant girl, Martha, her brother Dickon, and the estate’s head gardener, Ben. Mary discovers the garden, and then Colin, her invalid cousin, both in disrepair. With the help of her friends, she nurses Colin and the garden back to health.
Professor Timothy Troy directs, bringing his own enthusiasm to the production. For him, the musical is “about the healing power of family and forgiveness,” and he likes to think of it as though it were a diorama that a 13-year-old boy made for his 10-year-old sister. Eric Peterson, who plays Major Holmes, agrees. The play, he says, “is made to make the audience into children.”
Written in 1991 by Tony award-winning playwright Marsha Norman, the musical is based on the children’s book by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The music, composed by Lucy Simon, is very appropriate for the style of the lyrics. It is utterly guileless and genuinely touching, capturing the mood concisely with the vocabulary of a full pit orchestra. Troy was assisted in the musical selection by Jacob Allen, musical director and Lawrence alum. “It’s a big sing,” says Troy, “which is a good match for Lawrence, because we can fill those demanding roles.”
The cast and crew all seem very satisfied with the work of guest costume director Denise Massman. Her costumes, along with the “successfully ambitious” set design, made quite an impression at the dress rehearsal Monday night.
Troy harbors the conviction that this work “will become a classic, because it’s so lyrical … it has staying power.”
The show runs in Stansbury Theatre on Nov. 18, 19 and 21 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 20 at 3 p.m. Tickets are free for students, and available at the box office in Brokaw.