In sharp contrast to last night’s irreverent and rock filled AMERICAN IDIOT, I once again have seen how diverse and amazing theatre is in Birmingham. Tonight I went to see THE SECRET GARDEN at Red Mountain Theatre Company. For all of the cursing, adult themes and rawness of last night, tonight was one of the most enchanting things I have ever seen.
Following the beloved children’s tale of Mary Lennox, who loses her parents and is sent to live with her uncle, this production was more than I could have ever hoped for.
Directed by Keith Cromwell, almost everything about the play is perfection. Beautiful costumes, lovely scenery, and a cast that took my breath away, the only thing I can complain about is the use of recorded music. With such phenomenal actors and singers, I feel it is a disservice to not have equally talented, live musicians to work with them.
The collaboration with Notinee Indian Dance was exquisite, with real Indian dancing guiding and informing the characters as the story progressed. It added so much to the spectacle of this performance.
Kristen Sharp as Lily is ethereal and remarkable. Her voice sounds better than ever and as she floats through her scenes, she looks like an angel.
Christopher Sams as Neville and Lonnie Parsons as Archibald portray brothers and carry it off perfectly. Their dependence on each other with the undertones of rivalry is totally believable. When they sing “Lily’s Eyes” you can see how deeply they both love Lily. It is breathtaking.
Aidan Alford as Martha is funny and cute until she sings “Hold On.” At that point she joins the ranks of one of the best voices of the show and totally blew the audience away. I was ready to stand and cheer on the spot.
Special mention has to be made of Anna Bella Foster as Mary Lennox. On stage for most of the show, the fifth grader is darling. But the thing that sets her apart for me is the total immersion into her character. So often I see young actors get distracted by the audience or lose concentration when they aren’t directly involved in the scene. Ms. Foster stays engaged the entire show and you can see her character’s thoughts going through her mind as other characters speak or sing. Her face is always telling the story and her mood and feelings are always spot on. I think we will be seeing a lot more of this actress.
Every musical number had me either holding back tears or pulling down my sleeves to cover the chill bumps. The emotional range of the show was extraordinary and although I have been a fan of the music from THE SECRET GARDEN for years, it was all so beautifully sung it seemed fresh and new.
And in the end, the garden blooms beautifully with a little imagination, forethought and help from the Botanical Gardens.
According to Cromwell, the rest of the run of the show is sold out but their next show, SISTER ACT is right around the corner. Go to redmountaintheatre.org for more information.