Roger Bart and Melody Kay in 1992 tour of The Secret Garden
I’m heading to Downtown LA tonight to see a preview performance of Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman’s The Secret Garden at the Ahmanson Theatre. It’s one of my favorite musicals of all time. Even though I was a bookworm as a kid, I wasn’t a huge fan of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s book. I loved A Little Princess, but The Secret Garden…eh…the book always left me kinda cold. That wasn’t the case with the musical though. I loved, loved, loved the musical.
I first saw The Secret Garden in 1992 when the national tour played the since-demolished Shubert Theater in Century City. Can’t believe it’s been 31 years. Wow. Even though The Secret Garden is one of my favorite shows, I’ve only seen it twice…the aforementioned Shubert production and then again in 1993 when the tour returned to the area and played the Pasadena Civic Theater. I would’ve gladly supported a regional production of the show, but for some maddening reason, it’s rarely done on the regional scene. I’ve no idea why. I can’t think of a regional theatre in SoCal who has done the show in the last 20 years or so…though I may have simply missed hearing of a production.
I still remember much of the 1992 national cast from memory. Melody Kay was a terrific Mary Lennox, Kevin McGuire played Archibald with an aching sadness, Douglas Sills was a delicious Neville, the lovely Anne Runolfsson was Lily, Roger Bart rocked it as Dickon, Jacquelyn Piro was Rose (I saw her assume the role of Lily a year later), Audra McDonald!!! as Ayah, and Tracy Ann Moore (Okay, I had to look up this actress’s name, but I remember liking her very much) as Martha. Pretty awesome cast, huh?
Weird memory. We ate at Cheesecake Factory in Beverly Hills after the show. I was so excited when my lemonade arrived with a ring of wet sugar on the rim of the glass. Small things make me happy.
Anyway, I have waited a long time for someone to revive this show in the LA area, so I was thrilled when Center Theatre Group announced the 2023 production. The first time I saw the show, I was a college student who sat mesmerized from the opening to its final note. Now….31 years later…I finally get to return to The Secret Garden, but this time I’m a mother who is bringing her three children along for the experience. I hope they love the show as much as I did when I first experienced it.
Reminder: Did you know that this former theatre kid wrote a YA book about a high school mounting a production of Les Misérables? You can find it on Amazon and at other major bookstores.