Saturday, January 07, 2017

The Secret Garden

With no promise of snow beyond a skiff to end by 10 am, and 10 am is about when it started instead! From noon on to 12:45 a good inch came down in heavy feathery flakes and by the time I was to leave to the theater, it was something that crossed my mind regarding wisdom. I got the end of the my street and watched the two cars leaving before more me slide down the hill and proceed through a red light onto New Hampshire Avenue's 6 lanes without hesitation. Clearly stopping at the bottom would only invite a rear-ending from the next car to attempt an egress. When it was my turn, I followed suit.While New Hampshire was treated and fine, 

I only had a short distance on it, then on Sligo Creek Drive and the subdivision roads to the Metro--which were perilous! I passed no fewer than 5 multi-car fender benders with cars on the sides of the road, on sidewalks, and blocking lanes. I drove cautiously and constantly, ignoring stop signs when safe to do so--the start from the stop on slick pavement particularly problematic. In the end, it only took about 10 minutes more (20 instead of 10) to get to the Metro and the Lot was nearly empty. The train arrived after about 5 minutes and travelled at normal speeds, of course. So I arrived with 15 minutes to spare, and not many people at the theater. They ended up delaying the start for 15 minutes and had a house about 90% full.
The overture was grand and the music overall is operatic-lite in the same way the scores of productions like "Les Mesirables" and "Sweeney Todd" are. The show begins with a montage of living tableaus which return at various times later in the show with dialogue to explain their significance--very effective. One is of a snake charmer, and that became my one word take away: Charming! This show was completely charming in it's every aspect. The sets were beautifully rendered and while massive in form, floated effortlessly to define and redefine one moment from the next. The lighting and sound were always contributory, not distracting. And the actors were to a person pitch perfect.

I have now attended 5 productions in the past two years with Shakespeare Theatre Company of Washington, DC. Four of them have been musicals--and the irony is that the only one that disappointed me was the straight up play "Romeo and Juliet"! And it wasn't horrible. It just wasn't the same level of quality I find in their musicals on any level. Looking at this cast, the member's bio's are extra-ordinary with deep Broadway, Off-Broadway, and International credentials. Some of the stand-outs would include both of the Brothers Cravens. Archibald who is the wayward custodian of the estate, secret garden and orphaned wafe performed opposite Glenn Close in "Sunset Boulevard" on Broadway. Dr. Neville Craven, the slightly evil antagonist played John Newton in the original cast of "Amazing Grace" on Broadway, and has a Theater Critics Best Actor award for that performance as well as 3 CD's of songs under his belt. Daisy Eagan reprises her Tony award will performance as Martha, Mary Lennox's maid, and Charlie Franklin as Dickson was captivating.

And this is not to say that the principle children actors were not also wonderful, because they were; as was the rest of the cast. I wish I could recommend this one, but today was the next to last day for this show. I can say that I enjoyed it immensely. You would have, too!

Fakir (Vishal Vaidya) charming a snake in the opening moments
The Brits in India about to all succumb to cholera!
Chamber maid, Martha (Daisy Eagan) making the acquaintance of  Mary Lennox (Anya Rothman)
And the dead spirits of the cholera epidemic follow Mary Lennox to England and haunt her  new life in a benevolent manner
The brothers Craven: on the left Dr. Neville (Josh Young) who's unrequited  love of his older brother's dead wife, Lilly, drives him to keeping his nephew bedridden in the hopes of driving his older brother, Archibald (Michael Xavier) from the family estate--until Mary Lennox shows up and tosses a grenade in the smoldering fire of his plans
In a night of delusion, Archibald dances with the spirits and his partner is his dead wife, Lilly (Lizzie Klemperer)
Mary meets the caretaker of the gardens, Ben Weatherstaff (Sean G. Griffin) as she acclimates herself to her new home
Martha's little brother, Dickon (Charlie Franklin), becomes a fast friend and tells Mary of a lost key to a Magic Garden
After some frustration, Mary finds the key!
One night shortly thereafter, Mary orchestrates a visit to the Secret Garden attended by her friends and spirits alike
It's then that Dickon introduces the young invalid Colin Craven (Henry Barat) to the garden magic.

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