Mark Cuddy, the artistic director of the Geva Theatre in Rochester, New York, told Playbill On-Line on Feb. 27, that the company had been planning to stage The Secret Garden in spring 2001. However, as a press release put it, "Due to the recent success of the newly reissued version of The Secret Garden [in England], the show's producers have made the decision to take the show straight to Broadway next season. This decision prevents a regional theatre, such as Geva, from performing the show until the Broadway run has finished.
Cuddy said The Nederlander Organization was producing the new Garden. The musical tells the story of spoilt orphan Mary Lennox and her sickly cousin Colin. After the death of her parents, Mary is brought back from India to live in her uncle's house in England, but she is desperately unhappy until one day she discovers the key to a secret garden.
"It's been made a much more linear story," Cuddy said of the new version. With the exception of Mary's deceased parents, the ghost characters have been banished, he said, and the cast now features numerous female servants and male gardeners. The latter menials take part in a couple of new production numbers.
The involved members of the Nederlanders were out of town and could not be reached for comment. Norman's agent was in London for the opening of The Secret Garden.
Philip Quast, Peter Polycarpou and Linzi Hateley star in the London production at the Aldwych Theatre. The full cast features Quast (as Archibald Craven), Polycarpou (Dr. Neville Craven), Hateley (Martha), Meredith Braun (Lily), Craig Purnell (Dickon), Freddie Davies (Ben Weatherstaff), Dilys Laye (Mrs. Medlock), Alistair Robins (Captain Albert Lennox) and Carmen Cusack (Rose). The original three teams of children, playing the roles of Mary Lennox and Colin Craven, are Natalie Morgan and Luke Newberry, Tamsin Egerton Dick and Eddie Brown, and Eliza Caird and Adam Clarke.
The stage musical is adapted from Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic 1911 novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marsha Norman, who has written both the book and lyrics. The music is by Lucy Simon, who was nominated for a Tony Award for the score when the show was produced on Broadway in 1991. The production features musical staging and choreography by Gillian Lynne, with design by Anthony Ward. It is directed by the RSC's artistic director Adrian Noble. Lighting is by Chris Parry, orchestrations by William David Brohn, musical supervision by Chris Walker, sound design by Andrew Bruce and Terry Jardine and musical direction by John Woolf.
The Secret Garden is the RSC's first musical for more than a decade. It opened on Nov. 28, 2000, at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, where it has broken all box office records. The transfer to the West End will mark the return of the RSC to the Aldwych Theatre, which was the company's London home from 1960 to 1981.
—By Robert Simonson
and Terri Paddock