Capital Rep’s ‘Secret Garden’ solid, but long

Cap Rep production of "The Secret Garden" has stellar cast, strong singing.

A huge and talented cast at Capital Rep, under director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill’s imaginative shepherding, delivers an appealing musical adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel “The Secret Garden.”

Through metaphor, memory and music, a young girl reinvigorates the winter-overed garden of her young life and revitalizes the off-bounds garden in memory of her aunt — Lily, of course.

The book and lyrics are by Marsha Norman, and the music is by Lucy Simon (yup, Carly’s older sister). Unfortunately, the show is simply too long. Just when you think Act II, which is the better of the two, is going to reach a satisfying conclusion, another character or another number comes along and saps the forward motion.

‘The Secret Garden’

WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany

WHEN: through Dec. 21

HOW MUCH: $65-$20

MORE INFO: 445-7469,

But this production almost makes you forget the drag and the pedestrian music by virtue of the staging and the cast’s commitment to the story of a plucky young girl named Mary (Brittany Ross), who is orphaned in India, repatriated to England and relatives who don’t much care for her, and who transcends her own miseries with the help of an understanding maid, Martha, and Martha’s brother Dickon (played, respectively, by the multi-talented Leenya Rideout and Elliot Lane).

Mary’s Uncle Archibald (Cole Burden) still mourns the death of Lily (Mollie Vogt-Welch, whose sublime operatic voice shines in a marvelous quartet and seals the heartbreak in “Come to My Garden”), to the point that he has neglected his son, Colin (Aidan Fecko).

While attempting to solve her own problems, Mary manages to banish the chilly blight from Colin’s life and restore him to the green promise of a healthy future.

Mancinelli-Cahill uses a particularly intimate approach to the proceedings. Eight actors double as musicians under Josh Smith’s fine direction. The estimable Fred Rose, for example, has whole scenes of dialogue as Dr. Neville Craven, Archibald’s brother, followed by an appearance as cellist. The flow from scene to scene is enhanced by these seamless musical connections and set shifting by the spot-on tech crew and Rachel Budin’s lighting design.

The music alternates between recitative and aria; sometimes the numbers advance the plot and sometimes they reveal a character’s emotion. Highlights include “Winter’s on the Wing,” “Show Me the Key,” “Wick,” Martha’s anthem “Hold On,” and an absolutely fabulous number called “Come Spirit, Come Charm,” a kind of psychological and musical apotheosis. Then, frankly, too many numbers come.

A tip of the hat to young Fecko and to everybody’s worst nightmare of a housekeeper, Rita Dottor as Mrs. Medlock. And, of course, to Britanny Ross. Ross’s performance — musically, choreographically and dramatically — is a wonder.

Categories: Entertainment

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