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Show and Tell: 'The Secret Garden' Blooms in Seattle

The 5th Avenue Theatre's revival is a moving, lovely musical

Published on: April 27, 2017

Secret Garden by Tracey Martin
Bea Corley as Mary Lennox and Charlie Franklin as Dicon in 'The Secret Garden' at the 5th Avenue Theatre. Photo credit: Tracy Martin

The bottom line

The Tony-award winning musical The Secret Garden was first  introduced to audiences 25 years ago. Now, the playwright and composer have come together to revive the play for contemporary audiences, creating a production at The 5th Avenue Theatre with memorable music, magic, mystery and a touch of humor. Playing through May 6,The Secret Garden will enchant older kids through adults.  


The Secret Garden is based on the 1910 children’s book by Frances Hodgson Burnett about 10-year-old Mary Lennox, a girl who was orphaned by a cholera epidemic while she was living with her parents in India. She is sent to live with her reclusive uncle in England, who is grieving his own loss, that of his wife Lily. Mary wanders the lonely house, which is haunted by the ghosts of the past. When she finds a neglected, walled garden, she and her sickly cousin Colin work to bring the garden back to life -- and to bring life back to the household.

From the brambles that outline the stage to the garden in full bloom at the end, the set provides the perfect backdrop for this story. The English mansion is created with four movable panels which form a silhouette of the house including the two levels and staircases. The actors move in and out of doors and between the two “floors” of the house, making it feel three-dimensional. Special effects such as fog, thunder and lightning and black lights add to the Gothic atmosphere. A large painting of Lily, hanging over Colin’s bed, sometimes “comes alive” as Lily sings from the frame.

he Cast of The Secret Garden - Photo Credit: Mark Kitaoka
The Cast of The Secret Garden - Photo Credit: Mark Kitaoka

The show is packed with talent. Tam Mutu, who plays Archibald Craven, the uncle, is a Broadway/West End Award winner; Daisy Eagan, who plays Martha (a maid who helps Mary), won a Tony for her portrayal of Mary Lennox in the original Broadway Show; and Lizzie Klemperer (Lily Craven) has performed in a Tony-nominated Broadway show. Bea Corley inhabits the petulant character of Mary perfectly and has a beautiful voice. Our favorite performance was by Charlie Franklin, who played Dickon (Martha's brother) with a light and humorous touch. 

The music is lush and perfectly performed by the singers who are backed by a full orchestra.

Parent tips

Parents should know that the themes in The Secret Garden are heavy, and in the beginning, Mary’s family dies in a cholera outbreak. There are lots of ghosts, but they aren’t particularly frightening.The biggest themes I had to explain to my kids were about death and epidemics, and how kids were treated during that time period. Kids will love the fun special effects, the set and the humorous child actors. Find content advisories here.

Know before you go

Age recommendation: The 5th Avenue Theatre recommends this show for kids 7 and older. Note that no children under the age of 4 are admitted, even babes in arms.

When: The Secret Garden plays at the 5th Avenue Theatre through May 6

Where: 1308 5th Ave. Seattle, WA 98101

Length: The show is long, two hours and 20 minutes, plus an intermission; parents will know how long their kids can sit.

Tickets: Tickets range from 50 to over $100, though there are discounts such as $20 day-of-show tickets for people employed in the arts, students and patrons under age 25, military and patrons seeing the show for the second time. Buy online.

Parking: Parking is tricky in Seattle. Check here for a handy guide for a variety of parking options.

Snacks: Alcoholic beverages, bottled water, coffee and snacks are available for sale in the lobby.

Restaurant partners: The 5th partners with some restaurants in which theater patrons can receive a discount and validated parking.


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