The Age of Innocence
A Broadway smash comes to life on the Loeb Mainstage.
In the Broadway production of The Secret Garden, the entire stage rotated to reveal Mary's dazzling garden. Even without a Broadway budget for extravagancies such as a rotating stage, the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Society's production brings refreshing life and vibrancy to this garden.
Marsha Norman's musical adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic novel ran on Broadway for 706 performances and won two Tony awards-Best Book of a Musical (Norman) and Featured Actress in a Musical (Daisy Egan as Mary Lennox). At age eleven, Egan was-and remains-the youngest person ever to win a Tony. Amazingly, in taking on the role of the ten-year-old Mary, Tamara Spiewak '02, a Harvard undergraduate, convinces the audience that she is this orphaned child. As wonderful and natural as she is, however, Spiewak appears to have taken many cues from the Broadway soundtrack, as her line-readings are often identical to Egan's.
As Archibald Craven, Mary's emotionally challenged uncle and guardian, Matthew Anderson '03 brings to life a multi-dimensional character struggling to deal with the loss of his wife and struggling to deal with Mary, this new life-force who invades his forbidding Victorian household. Anderson's singing improves upon his effortless ability to act with both the living and the dead. His impressive timbre adds new layers of meaning to Lucy Simon's beautiful and haunting melodies.
Jaclyn Huberman '01 as Lily Craven (Archibald's deceased wife), Stephen Toub '01 as Neville Craven (his younger brother), and Jennifer Glick '00 as Martha (Mary's chambermaid) stand out for their vocal abilities as well. Glick's rendition of "Hold On" nearly had the audience on its feet in the middle of the show, as did Toub and Anderson's duet of "Lily's eyes." Huberman's performance is consistently on a professional level.
This superb production of The Secret Garden is hampered only slightly by technical problems such as microphones that would randomly turn on and off and noisy scenery changes during quiet moments of the show. As in The Wizard of Oz, color and lighting enhance mood. Like Dorothy opening the door of her black-and-white house to enter a world full of color, the inhabitants of Misselthwaite Manor witness a change from gray gloom to vibrant whites, reds, yellows, and blues when Mary tends Lilly's dormant garden and nurtures it back to life. This transition, however, does not take place until the last scene, and the audience-which previously has been squinting through the darkness to separate people from scenery-suddenly finds itself squinting to not be blinded by the light.
This choice of indicating mood through lighting had another negative effect. Ghosts dressed in white and representing memories move in and out of scenes to help explain a living character's actions. What the ghosts are doing should be important, but the stage is just dark enough to make their actions indecipherable.
The audience, however, is able to ignore these technical glitches and lose itself in the magic of this classic children's tale. Impressive acting and beautiful singing transport The Secret Garden's audience into a world where the secret to happiness rests just behind a locked door.
THE SECRET GARDEN written by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon directed by Joe Gfaller '01 Mike McNabb '02 Julie James '00 Through May 6 Loeb Mainstage
Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon
Joe Gfaller '01
Mike McNabb '02
Julie James '00
Through May 6