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Review: The Secret Garden: The Musical

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Posted on: 28 March 2024

Review: The Secret Garden: The Musical

Staged by Leicester Drama Society
Little Theatre, Dover Street, Leicester
Words by Lynette Watson

Based upon the popular children’s book, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the latest musical version by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon, and adapted by Leicester Drama Society raises the bar, with a tremendous cast as it begins its run at Leicester’s Little Theatre.

At the centre of the story is the recently orphaned Mary Lennox, sent from India to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven, in Yorkshire. Archie has become a recluse, still mourning the death of his beautiful wife, Lily, who appears throughout show as a ghost, and leads to Mary’s discovery of her neglected walled garden.

The outstanding ensemble were able to follow this story through a complicated score – both dramatically and vocally beautiful – with no weak links in the company. The first act is full of mystery, as the characters establish themselves against a static split-level set with a plethora of arches, transporting the action from India to Yorkshire, on to Paris, and back to Yorkshire and a transformed magical garden! During the second act, Mary and her cousin Colin (wistfully played by Edward Lander, a role shared with Harry Woodward) join forces, and with help from Martha (Kerry Smith), Dickon (Simon Butler), and Ben Weatherstaff (Martin Bell) bring the secret garden back to its former, colourful glory. This emphasises the underlying theme of the story that after times of despair, with tender nurturing, love and family relationships can be restored.

All the twenty-strong ensemble give impressive and moving performances, with a superb, committed delivery from Keiran Whelan-Newby as Archibald, and by a young star in the making, Olivia King, as Mary – confident and believable throughout. There are many memorable musical numbers, but two that stood out for me were, in the first act, ‘Lily’s Eyes’ (performed by Whelan-Newby and Russell Webster) and the hauntingly poignant, ‘Come to my Garden’ (performed by Rose Bale) during the second.

The Leicester Drama Society production of The Secret Garden is truly special and provides the perfect outing for the whole family this Easter.

– – –

This production received several other generous reviews that can be found online:

★★★★★ – East Midlands Theatre

★★★★★ – What’s Good To Do

★★★★ – Theatre&Tonic

★★★★ – Niche Magazine

“A very impressive production with some excellent performances that elevate it further. It’s moving and emotive and Leicester audiences should flock to this garden of wonder this Easter.” – Beyond The Curtain



Photos by Dave Morris.

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