If there are any doubts about the talent level in the Children’s Theater of Charlotte (CTC), just listen to the first song in “The Secret Garden,” CTC’s latest production. You will be mesmerized and thrilled at Charlotte’s amazing pool of talent. CTC has outdone itself with this one.
If you haven’t read “The Secret Garden” since you were little, let me refresh your memory: little Mary is living in India when her parents die. She is shipped to England to live with her grieving, hunchback uncle whom she has never met. There, she meets a loving chambermaid, Martha, a sarcastically sweet gardener, Ben, and her sickly cousin, Colin. She discovers a secret garden that her Aunt Lily created before her death that has since been neglected. She and her new friends work to restore the garden to its original beauty, and in the process, see the beauty in each other and themselves.
I took my 7-year-old son and his friend to Friday’s performance. Neither had read the book or even heard the story. I knew it would be a little confusing and high-level to them, so I tried to whisper updates to them during the course of the show to explain characters – this seemed to help (except when I told my son’s friend that the man singing was her uncle, and he turned to me and said, “He’s YOUR uncle?” Oh geez).
CTC’s production of “The Secret Garden,” directed by Michelle Long, is a musical – each song is more beautiful than the last with amazing duets and group performances. The ghosts of Lily and Mary’s parents and other “dreamers” appear frequently in song and supplement the storyline. The dreamer idea was confusing at first to the boys, but these spirits ended up being their favorite part.
When the characters are speaking, they talk in a very thick dialect, which makes it a little difficult to follow at first. I was not sure how much the boys understood of the dialogue but they chuckled at the right places, so they must’ve followed well enough. The set changes and music really helped clear things up for them, too. They sat captivated for the entire two hours – really just losing steam toward the end (and I think that was because it was close to 10 pm).
Set design and music direction are key in this production and both hit it out of the park. The boys loved how quickly the sets moved, and in typical boy fashion, tried to figure out exactly how it was done. Our favorite was the last set when the Secret Garden was revealed – I would love one of those big panels of painted flowers in my house! Gorgeous!
CTC recommends this production for children ages 8 and up, and I totally agree. The 7-yr-olds were a little too young to really appreciate it, but still understood enough to enjoy it. It is on the longer side – a little over 2 hours including intermission (or “Halftime” as the boys said) – so leave little siblings with a babysitter. And, I would definitely either read the book or Cliff Notes beforehand so your child understands each character. It might even make a fun date night – grab dinner Uptown, hit the show, and prepare yourself to enjoy a magical story filled with song and beautifully artistic sets.
Click here for tickets, show times and more information on CTC’s production of “The Secret Garden.”