Based on the book by Frances Hodgson- Burnett, The Secret Garden follows little orphan, Mary Lennox (Alana Hinge) who is brought to Yorkshire to live with her uncle after her parents die of Cholera. At first she’s miserable but the fresh air, new friends and a locked up garden soon give Mary the fresh perspective she needs.
This musical version of the much-loved story is an abridged version of the Broadway musical, designed especially for young people and by young people. The cast is predominately made up of children and young performers which makes the success of the show even more impressive. In fact, the cast is made up of about 300 young performers. The ensemble particularly stick out during scene changes when they perform beautifully and gracefully choreographed sequences.
Scarlet Smith, who plays the late aunt Lilly has a particularly stunning voice, as does Samantha Bingley who plays Mary’s bubbly maid, Martha. Bingley, Matthew Nicholas who plays the spritely, Dickon and Sam Procter who plays the frail and frustrated, Colin have particularly note-worthy performances, but it’s Alana Hinge as Mary Lennox who – rightly – completely steals the spotlight. For someone so young her concept of comic timing is incredible and impeccable and will probably see her land some amazing roles when she is older.
The songs are decent. After the performance whilst walking from the theatre to the station we were surrounded by children and their parents singing some of the catchy tunes from the show. Despite the strong musical elements, there are moments where I think the storyline and acting would be better served and could carry itself as a straight play rather than a musical. But that’s not to say the addition of music wasn’t enjoyable.
The set is rather simple which allows the audience to use their imagination to picture everything from the Yorkshire estate to the Secret Garden. The children show just how important imagination is. This is also resonated in the song, ‘Wick’ where Mary and Dickon picture how they can bring the dead garden back to life.
The audience may have been made up of many friends and family of the cast but the support for the cast makes the atmosphere all the more magical. The audience seemed very engaged every step of the way and hung onto every word and joke throughout. The cheering at the end became a clear indicator of its success.
The Secret Garden remains the much loved classic that it has become over generations. Overall, if there’s anyone looking for an enjoyable way to spend the summer holiday with a child, then this is the show for you.
The Secret Garden plays on selected dates Ambassadors Theatre until 31th August 2016. For more information and tickets, see The Secret Garden website.