What are we talking about today?

I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

14 December 2016

Calling All the World to Come: #STCGarden

There's a photo booth at
the theatre. We weren't
about to walk past that.
Finally, the recap you've been waiting for: all the good bits of The Secret Garden. And seriously, if you're going to be in or near D.C. before the end of the year, please go see this show. It can only add more joy and light to your holiday season, and I say that as the woman who cried through the entire thing. Go. See it. Take the kids.

This was my first time ever seeing The Secret Garden. The show may have been around for 25 years, but what can I say? I haven't seen every musical yet. The only thing I knew about the musical version until a couple months ago was the song "Lily's Eyes," but if you have to go around having not seen the show, that's a pretty good part of it to know about. It's still my favourite song from the show.

If you're just now joining this little journey, you can also read about grief and healing in The Secret Garden, or my thoughts on Mary's parents in the book vs in the musical.

Many, many spoilers after the jump.

So, to get us off to a good start: this cast is incredible. Lizzie Klemperer (Lily Craven) took the audience's breath away at the very beginning of the show, and before we had a chance to recover Michael Xavier (Archibald Craven) knocked off any socks Lizzie may have missed. I'm still sitting in amazement just thinking about those two and their incredible voices.

I've heard this for years without
knowing it was from The Secret Garden.
Source: Things Musicals Taught Me tumblr.
Anya Rothman (Mary Lennox) is absolutely wondrous to watch on Mary's journey, and of course has a gorgeous voice to boot, as befits the star of the show. (Also, she was so sweet at stage door. I was delighted that I got to meet her.) And Daisy Eagan. Daisy Eagan! The original, Tony-winning Mary is back, this time as Martha, and she is absolutely stunning. Her "Hold On" was breathtaking, tear-making, and in every other way incredible.

A few of the many, many great moments:

The carriage ride from the train station. I love the montage-- one of my favourite songs, "The House Upon the Hill," is interspersed with bits of exposition, but it's Mary's attendant ghosts (the poor girl is haunted by eight ghosts. Eight!) who really make this scene as they surround the carriage on its way and deliver her--and themselves--to their new home. All while singing the background creepy "ooooh" sound that is also meant to be the wind wuthering over the moor.

Mary asks Archie about ghosts. First of all, he's so ill at ease it's hilarious, since he didn't want to talk to her in the first place, because he's reclusive and didn't know what to say. And it shows. So she asks if Aunt Lily is a ghost ("Why? Have you heard her?"), then if her parents are now ghosts, and he finally says, "The house is haunted, Mary." Jenna and I giggled later about the house already being haunted and then here comes Mary with eight more ghosts of her own. Good thing it's a huge mansion so they have plenty of space for haunting.

Dickon (Charlie Franklin). Everything Dickon. I'm sure there's a formal name for the literary archetype he is, but he's just a fantastic character. (It seems this is a pretty widespread opinion.) And he has two great songs-- "Winter's on the Wing," and my second favourite in the entire show, "Wick." Although, having just read the book before seeing the show, I gotta say Dickon's mother would be most displeased that he spends the entire show with dirt on his face. Better wash up before you go home, Dickon.

"Lily's Eyes." Just wow. It's part of the video montage below, near the end, if you want to hear it. The best bit of a show that's filled with best bits. (Well. Stay tuned--this is probably the second-best bit. Best song, though, no question.)

I would be well remiss if I didn't say that Fakir (Vishal Vaidya) and Ayah (Maya Maniar) were Jenna's favourite ghosts. And I loved them, too-- they were delightfully perfect. In a show that's already packed full of my favourite things, I'm just not sure I'm allowed to have this many. But if I may... they're on my favourites list.

Neville Craven (Josh Young) is a spectacular bad guy. Why? Because I knew he was a bad guy, I knew he was bitter and scheming, but he's so low-key in his schemes in Act I that I was starting to think that maybe I was wrong, maybe he wasn't so bad--and then he unleashed the full extent of his plots and I hated him even more. Apparently, both Lily and Archie are required to have awful siblings, but unlike Rose, Neville has no redemption. (Maybe in a sequel. See below.) Early on in the show, Archie says something like, "Why didn't Father leave the house to you?" and Neville's "If wishing made it so" face was priceless. He's not really a terrible person, but his bitterness drives him to make self-centered choices that have unpleasant, potentially disastrous, consequences for other people.

I screamed with happiness on the inside when Archie told him (using slightly different words) not to let the door hit him on the way out. And then:

This show was my first time seeing Brittany Baratz, and now I'm a fan.
Not just because of this Twitter exchange, but it sure didn't hurt.

It took me hours to get this reference. In my own defence, I was
at work when this conversation was going down and
was thus concentrating on something else.
I felt pretty stupid when I got home and realisation dawned.

Colin (Henry Baratz) standing for the first time. This is the moment of book and musical, a symbol of how far both Colin and Mary have come since we met them, a display of the powers of the garden and a mother's love even beyond the grave. And this is where Mary finds out just how much of a difference she can make by thinking of others besides herself every now and then. (If only Neville had been able to learn the same lesson.) Henry Baratz was also delightful to meet at stage door.

The next day, as Jenna and I walked through the Vietnam and Korean War Monuments at the National Mall, I told her: "I just had an awful thought. They got Colin well and walking in time for him to go to WWI." Unfortunately, that means Dickon also would have fought in the war, and the thought of either of those amazing characters being sent to the battlefields is even more heartbreaking than anything that happened on stage. So now I'm glad we don't really have a sequel.

Mary Jo DuGaw absolutely nailed the Scottish accent. She didn't quite go so far as to have an Aberdeen accent, which is probably a good thing. Incidentally, when Neville said Mary would be going to Aberdeen, I muttered, "Holy crap!" I explained to Jenna later where Aberdeen is, and she said, "So he really was sending her as far away as possible?" Indeed. Unless there's a boarding school in the Shetland Islands, he very nearly succeeded in getting Mary about as far away as she could go without leaving Britain.

I'm sure it would not be any fun at all, because epic shows
where everyone dies are my favourite thing, it seems.
For example: I went to West Side Story after being
widowed for six months, which is a terrible, terrible idea.
Don't do that.
Mary's flashback during "The Storm." Mary saw her parents & the other ghosts die, but blocked the memory, as you do when you're 10 and all the people you know fall down dead right in front of you. During the storm she has a flashback of that night, starts screaming, and runs outside in a panic--and that's when she finds the door to the garden. It's a pretty dramatic ending to Act I, but it also meant that not only did we see them all die twice (do you know how many times I've seen Jason Forbach die on stage now? I gotta start liking happier shows), but we also had to watch a little girl watch her parents die, twice. Because it was all just starting to cheer up a bit and we can't have that.

So to explain the next couple of great moments, I have to share a mishap. (I feel bad about sharing, but seriously, other stuff doesn't make sense without me telling this part.) Not long into Act II, Colin's bed started sliding on stage before the house pieces were moved out of the way, there was a collision between the sets, and a couple folks came running out of the wings to get Colin offstage as all the lights came up. The stage manager explained that they would have to stop the show for a few minutes while they reset/figured things out/etc.

Everyone in the show, as we found out over the next few hours, felt really bad about this and wanted to make it better for the audience. Obviously I would never, ever wish this kind of misfortune on anyone, and certainly not while they're working so hard to bring a beautiful show to life. And it was a relief that no one was hurt. (I didn't tweet about it, because as a social media manager I know that's a fast way to bring painfully bad karma down on my own head.) Having said that, though... I've always kinda wanted to be at a show where something went wrong, just so I could also witness the recovery.

And what a recovery it was.

The show carried on with no sets (nearly--stay tuned), since they couldn't be sure everything was working safely, so most of the rest of the show was on an empty stage. And, y'all... maybe it was the contrast between having scenery and having none, maybe it was the actors giving their performances a bit extra to make up for the goof, maybe it's just because Act II is so emotional anyway, but the rest of the show was incredibly powerful, with nothing else on stage to distract the audience's attention from the story, and every bit of the focus on the actors. I had just thought up to that moment that I was being blown away. It was all very "You ain't seen nothin' yet." Some of the most moving songs in the show--"Hold On," "Where in the World," and "How Could I Ever Know?"--all came after the break, and truth be told I'm not sure I want to see those songs with scenery now that I've seen how glorious they can be on an empty stage.

And finally, the garden reveal. The absolute best bit in the show, even better than "Lily's Eyes." The set that was still usable after the incident, and thank goodness, was the garden. We first saw it in winter mode, when the children start working to bring it back to its full glory but it still looks dead, and in the final scene spring arrives and Oh. My. Heart. I was ready to applaud, because I thought for sure the garden would get entrance applause (it does, regularly), but this audience went for reverent silence instead. It didn't hurt that Archie reacted the same way we all did, standing on the stage with his hand over his mouth as he took in his departed wife's most beloved space, and how fabulous it looked 10 years since he last laid eyes on it. This was one of two jaw-dropping moments in the show for me (the other was a particularly gorgeous high note I hadn't been expecting). You can see a bit of the garden in the video below.

Amazingly, after 30 minutes of crying in Act II, I cheered up along with the show at the end. I'd expected happy tears for the finale, but apparently I was all out. (Finally.) The curtain call was when we got our first hint that the cast was completely mortified about the scenery issues, when Seán Griffin (Ben Weatherstaff) held us after the bows to apologize on behalf of the cast and thank us for staying. Now, we did see two people leave, but unless the folks we couldn't see hit the exits, neither Jenna nor I thought that many people had left. And why would anyone go before the end? Unless you just go to the theatre to get a good look a the scenery, I suppose, or you can't stand interruptions...but they weren't getting me out of there unless the building was on fire.

I've never gotten more social media love from the cast of anything after a show, by the way. And I tweet actors to tell them that they're awesome a lot. If things going wrong is going to get me this many sweet responses, then I'm okay with something breaking at every show. This was the best one, though:
This may be the coolest thing anyone has tweeted at me, ever.
Also probably a sign that I tweet too much, if someone I'd only
started following the day before had already seen enough of me
to know I was in the audience hanging on every moment.
(And to notice that I travelled to be there!)
I was a bit paranoid after reading this that what they were thinking
was, "Oh, crap, she's probably tweeting this." So it's just as well I would never.
If I must go to sad shows (and apparently I must!) I at least make it worth it by choosing the beautiful ones. And that is, at last, all the things I have to say about The Secret Garden. See some glimpses of it for yourself:

Post title is from "Wick." 

No comments: