Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay


The Secret Garden
42nd Street Moon
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of A Christmas Story, The Musical and Bright Star


Scott Hayes and Katie Maupin
Photo by Ben Krantz Studios
42nd Moon Theatre is presenting the The Secret Garden. I first saw this show in New York at St. James Theatre in 1991. Since then, I have seen a production at Willows Theatre and TheatreWorks. It is based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1911 children's novel, and the score by Lucy Simon (music) and Marsh Norman (lyrics) reminds me of minor The Phantom of the Opera or Les Misérables. I have heard those chord progressions before, although not as good.

The plot centers on Mary Lennox (Katie Maupin) who awakens to find her parents have died of cholera. Within a matter of moments we discover young Mary is sent to live with her uncle, Archibald Carven (Brian Watson), at Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire. All of this proceeds with rapid speed with the singing of a large ensemble of singers who serve as a Greek chorus for the rest of the two acts.

Archibald is still grieving the loss of his wife Lily, who appears as a ghost (Sharon Rietkerk), who died during childbirth. He is also distraught over the condition of his bed-bound son Colin (Tyler Groshong). Mary discovers a secret garden that once belonged to Lily. Aided by her maid Martha (Heather Orth), her brother Dixon (Keith Pinto), and grumpy old gardener Ben (Scott Hayes), Mary unlocks the secret of the hidden garden. She reinstates life not only to the garden but to her uncle and his ill son.

This production has fine voices across all of the actors. Brian Watson as Archibald shines in "A Bit of Earth" and in a beautiful duet with Edward Hightower as brother Neville. Keith Pinto is outstanding as Dickon. He brings the musical to life, as does Scott Hayes as Ben the crusty old gardener. Keith Pinto plays Dickon as a bit of a leprechaun. He has good vocal chops in his rendition of "Wick."

Kate Maupin is charming as Mary. She sidesteps the adorability of some child actors that I have seen and has a lovely and crystal clear singing voice in her duets. Sharon Rietkerk as Lily gives an excellent performance. She has a lovely voice with amazing phrasing in her songs. Edward Hightower gives a vivid performance as the calculating, mean-spirited young brother of Archibald, Neville. Heather Orth is delightful as the maid Martha, and Tyler Groshong gives a bright performance as the ill Colin. Lucinda Hitchcock Cone, Ryan Henry, Anjali Blacker, Amanda Johnson, Terrence McLaughlin, Michael Mohammed, and Corinne Rydman complete the large cast, giving good performances.

The Secret Garden runs through December 24, 2017, at the Gateway Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco CA. For tickets, visit www.42ndstreetmoon.org or the box office. Coming up next is Stephen Sondheim, Julius J. Epstein, and Philip G. Epstein's Saturday Night, running from March 28 through April 15.


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