The Secret Garden (musical)

The Secret Garden is a musical based on the 1911 novel of the same name by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The musical's script and lyrics are by Marsha Norman, with music by Lucy Simon. It premiered on Broadway in 1991 and ran for 709 performances.

The Secret Garden
Secret Garden logo.jpg
MusicLucy Simon
LyricsMarsha Norman
BookMarsha Norman
BasisThe Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Productions1989 Virginia Stage Company
1991 Broadway
2001 West End
2016 West End
AwardsTony Award for Best Book of a Musical

The story is set in the early years of the 20th century.[n 1] Mary Lennox, a young English girl born and raised in the British Raj, is orphaned by a cholera outbreak when she is ten years old. She is sent away from India to live in the manor of a brooding uncle she has never met in Yorkshire, England, where her personality blossoms among the other residents of the manor as they bring new life to a long-neglected garden.


The musical had its world premiere at the Wells Theatre, Norfolk, Virginia, in a Virginia Stage Company production, running from November 28, 1989 to December 17, 1989. Direction was by R.J. Cutler, with scenic design by Heidi Landesman, lighting by Peter Kaczorowski and costumes by Martin Pakledinaz.[1]

The Secret Garden premiered on Broadway at the St. James Theatre on April 25, 1991, and closed on January 1993, after 709 performances. The musical was directed by Susan H. Schulman with choreography by Michael Lichtefeld. The cast featured Daisy Eagan as Mary Lennox, Mandy Patinkin, Rebecca Luker, Robert Westenberg and John Cameron Mitchell. It won the 1991 Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical, Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Daisy Eagan), and Best Scenic Design (Heidi Landesman).[2] Eagan at age 11 was the youngest female recipient of a Tony Award. The set resembled an enormous Victorian toy theatre with pop-out figures, large paper dolls, and Joseph Cornell-like collage elements.[3] Costumes were by Theoni V. Aldredge, who was nominated for the Tony Award, Best Costume Design.

The wardrobe is on display at the Costume World Broadway Collection in Pompano Beach, Florida.[citation needed]

The musical was produced in Australia in 1995 in Brisbane (opened on 27 July 1995), Sydney (opened on 7 September 1995), and Melbourne (opened on 20 December 1995). Directed by Schulman and with sets by Landesman, the cast starred Philip Quast as Neville Craven and Anthony Warlow as Archibald Craven.[4] A heavily revised Royal Shakespeare Company production ran at Stratford (UK) from November 13, 2000 until January 27, 2001, with Philip Quast and Meredith Braun and directed by Adrian Noble, staged and choreographed by Gillian Lynne.[5][6] The RSC production transferred to the West End Aldwych Theatre, running from February 2001 until June 2001.[7][8]

The Secret Garden was produced in a limited run by Lamplighters Music Theatre in San Francisco, CA, USA, from January 18 to February 3 in 2008. The production was the first reconstruction of the original Broadway score since the piece's original opening in New York in 1991. The San Francisco production was mounted with notes from Lucy Simon's personal libretto from the original Broadway production, and was noted as being so close to the original Broadway production that the production fell under copyright jurisdictions, and public viewing permissions of footage of the production was not granted to the company. [9]

The Secret Garden was produced by Mirvish Productions at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto from February 13, 2011 to March 19. The production was originally produced at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland.[10]

The Secret Garden returned to the West End for 6 weeks in July and August 2016 at the Ambassadors Theatre with a company of child actors, directed by Rupert Hands.[11]

Washington DC's Shakespeare Theatre Company, in collaboration with Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, presented the musical from November 15, 2016, to January 8, 2017, directed by David Armstrong.[12] Michael Kahn (Artistic Director) noted that this production is "an active reworking" of the musical.[12] Daisy Eagan returned to the show as the chambermaid Martha, with Anya Rothman as Mary, Michael Xavier as Archibald Craven, and Josh Young as Dr. Neville Craven.[12][13][14] The production has revisions which include new songs, deletions (including the songs "Round-Shouldered Man", "Quartet", "Race You to the Top of the Morning") and re-arranging, but overall it condenses and streamlines the story to a shorter running time under Norman and Simon's involvement. In early 2017, it was announced that the production would transfer onto Broadway. The production performed at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle from April 14 to May 6, 2017 and at the Theatre Under the Stars in Houston,Texas from October 10–22, 2017, and had plans to go to other theatres across North America before going to Broadway; however, the production's timeline has since been canceled.[15][16]

On February 12, 2018, plans for the first Broadway revival were announced, with Warren Carlyle as director/choreographer and cast, theatre and other details to come.[17] A lab production prior to the Broadway revival was planned from May 19, 2018 to June 8 , also directed by Carlyle. Participants in the lab production included Sierra Boggess as Lily, Matt Doyle as Albert, Drew Gehling as Neville, Clifton Duncan as Archibald and Brooklyn Shuck as Mary.[18] The revival did not come to pass in the 2018-2019 season and there has been no further word on the project. When Warren Carlyle was interviewed by Ken Davenport for The Producer's Perspective Podcast in May 2019, he said that the revival was still on the table. They had a cast lined up, they were just waiting for the right theatre to be available.[19]

In August 2019, Opera Australia and the Gordon Frost Organisation announced that it would stage the 25th anniversary production, again directed by Susan H. Schulman, opening in Sydney in August 2020, with a Melbourne season to follow. In November 2019, the producers announced that Anthony Warlow would be reprising the role of Archibald Craven.[20] As of August 2020, both the Sydney and Melbourne seasons remained “postponed” because of the COVID-19 pandemic.[21]


The Secret Garden was The Third Annual World AIDS Day Benefit Concert, held on December 5, 2005, at the Manhattan Center Studios Grand Ballroom, New York City, directed by Stafford Arima and produced by Jamie McGonnigal.[22] The cast featured Laura Benanti as Lily, Steven Pasquale as Archie, Will Chase as Neville, Celia Keenan-Bolger as Martha, David Canary as Ben, Jaclyn Neidenthal as Mary, Struan Erlenborn as Colin, Max von Essen as Albert, Sara Gettelfinger as Rose, and Michael Arden as Dickon. The cast also included Matt Cavenaugh, Jenny Powers, Ben Magnuson, Shonn Wiley, Reshma Shetty, Deborah S. Craig, Nehal Joshi, and Kate Shindle, with Barbara Rosenblat returning to the role she created, Mrs. Medlock.

Manhattan Concert Productions presented a concert production of The Secret Garden at Lincoln Center for two nights on February 21 and 22, 2016, with Sydney Lucas starring as Mary Lennox.[23] She was joined by the original "Mary Lennox", Daisy Eagan, who now plays the role of Martha, and Barbara Rosenblat, returning to her original role of Mrs. Medlock. Also in the cast were Ramin Karimloo as Archibald Craven, Sierra Boggess as Lily, Cheyenne Jackson as Neville Craven, Ben Platt as Dickon, Jere Shea as Ben,[24] Oscar Williams as Colin Craven, Nikki Renée Daniels as Rose, Josh Young as Captain Albert Lennox and Telly Leung as Fakir.[25][26]

Rebecca Luker (the original Lily) appeared in a benefit concert for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Metro New York and Western New York at the Lucille Lortel Theatre on January 11, 2016.[27] The concert was originally scheduled to be one night only, but a second performance was added for January 17, 2016. Daisy Eagan, the original "Mary Lennox" was the host for the concerts.[28]

The Secret Garden (in concert) was presented in Toronto, Canada, in January 2017 as the inaugural show of a newly formed theatre company Podium Concert Productions, headed by Producer Peter da Costa and Conductor Mark Camilleri.[29][30][citation needed]

In February 2019, The Secret Garden was presented by the Virginia Stage Company in the Norfolk Botanical Gardens in a concert to celebrate the Company's 40th anniversary. This was the first time that The Secret Garden has been staged there since the World Premiere in 1989.[31]


This synopsis describes the original Broadway production; the reworked London production altered this sequence by moving or omitting several scenes and songs.

Act IEdit

Mary Lennox, a sickly 10-year-old English girl who has lived mostly in isolation in India since birth, dreams of English nursery rhymes and Hindi chants ("Opening").[n 2] Survivors of a cholera outbreak discover Mary and inform her that parents and nearly everyone she knew, including her Ayah, have died during the epidemic ("There's a Girl").

Mary is sent to live in England with her mysterious uncle Archibald Craven, a reclusive hunchback who has spent years grieving the death of his wife, Lily.[32] Due to Archibald's introversion, the management of his manor house, Misselthwaite, is largely left to his manipulative brother, Dr. Neville Craven.[32] The housekeeper, Mrs. Medlock, coldly welcomes Mary to Yorkshire on her arrival ("The House Upon the Hill"). Due to Archibald and Mary's lingering grief, the house is haunted by ghosts from their pasts (identified in the libretto as "dreamers" who sometimes act as a Greek chorus of narrators). Lonely and misbehaving, Mary despises her new surroundings and her first night there hears echoes of crying voices ("I Heard Someone Crying"). The next morning, Mary meets Martha, a young chambermaid who encourages Mary to go play outside by telling her about the surrounding moorland ("If I Had a Fine White Horse"), in particular, a hidden garden. Archibald remains submerged in his ghostly memories of Lily ("A Girl In the Valley").

Mary explores the grounds' Victorian-style topiary maze, discovering in the middle a walled garden overgrown with ivy. She encounters the old gardener Ben Weatherstaff ("It's a Maze"), who says the garden has been locked since Lily's death, as it reminds Archibald of her, and its door has been lost somewhere behind the weeds. Martha's mystical brother, Dickon, invokes the spring ("Winter's On the Wing") in a rustic druid-like fashion. When he comes upon Mary, he gives her some seeds, claims that he can converse with animals, and teaches her to speak the Yorkshire dialect to a robin, which guides the Mary to the garden's secret key ("Show Me the Key").

Inside the manor, Neville and Archibald are discussing how Neville abandoned his medical practice to take care of a bedridden boy when Mary suddenly enters. She asks Archibald for a bit of earth to plant a garden of her own. He allows it and, after she leaves, confides to Neville that his dreams of Lily have been worsening, which Neville blames on the arrival of Mary, who bears a strong physical resemblance to her aunt Lily. Curious at the simple modesty of Mary's request for some earth, Archibald muses on Lily and Mary's shared interest in gardening ("A Bit of Earth"). As the Yorkshire gloom turns to a fearsome storm ("Storm I"), Archibald and Neville grieve separately over Lily; thus, it is revealed that both men were in love with her ("Lily's Eyes"). Mary again hears crying ("Storm II"), but this time she uncovers its source: Colin, a secret cousin of hers who has been confined to bed since his birth, when his mother Lily died. Colin has been in bed his entire life because his father Archibald, probably following Neville's misleading medical advice, feared that Colin would also become a hunchback. Colin confides in Mary that he nightly dreams of a man who comes to him and reads from a magical book ("A Round-Shouldered Man"). However, just as Mary and Colin embrace each other's long-desired company, Neville and Mrs. Medlock burst in and angrily tell her she is never to see Colin again because of his fragile medical condition. As the storm reaches its peak, a distraught Mary runs outside, where the ghost of Lily reveals the location of the hidden door to the garden, and Mary inserts the key ("Final Storm").

Act IIEdit

Mary has a reverie about her loved ones and her desire for the garden to offer her privacy and the chance to discover herself ("The Girl I Mean to Be"). Neville's musings are darker; enviously recalling his unrequited love for Lily, Neville wants Archibald to leave Misselthwaite entirely to him. The two brothers' thoughts are interwoven with ghostly echoes of old arguments between Lily and her sister Rose (Mary's mother) about Archibald's suitability as a prospective husband and father ("Quartet"). The melancholy Archibald has decided to slip away to Paris for a while, pausing only to read a fairy tale to Colin while the boy sleeps ("Race You To the Top of the Morning"). Thus, the "round-shouldered man" is not a dream at all but merely Colin's own father, who, despite his emotional devastation, still deeply loves his son.

Mary tells Dickon that she has now been inside the garden but the plants are all dead. Dickon explains that it is probably just dormant and that, with some assistance, it will grow back ("Wick"). Mary tells Colin about the garden, but he is reluctant to go outside until he is encouraged by an inviting vision of his mother Lily ("Come to My Garden/Lift Me Up"). Mary, Dickon, and Martha clandestinely bring Colin to the garden in a wheelchair. In the garden, the exercise, fresh air, and magical incantations in both Hindi and English led by Mary, the ghosts, and the manor staff strengthen Colin, allowing him to rise from his wheelchair for the first time ("Come Spirit, Come Charm"). Ben reveals that Lily died giving birth to Colin from injuries sustained during an accident in the garden. Colin makes Mary and the staff promise not to tell Archibald about Colin's recovery until he is able to fully walk. The onlooking ghosts sing the praises of the renewed garden ("A Bit of Earth (Reprise)").

Back in the house, Neville faces down Mary as he threatens to send her away to boarding school, culminating in a violent confrontation between the doctor and the girl. Immediately after, Martha soothes Mary, telling her to stay strong ("Hold On"). With Martha's help, Mary writes to Archibald in Paris ("Letter Song"), urging him to come home. Archibald's emotional turmoil continues to dominate him ("Where In the World"); however, Lily's ghost reappears, Archibald is able to see her, and she tells him that she always loved him. They come to the conclusion that her death was no one's fault, and Archibald can finally let her go as she tells him to care for their child and go home to the garden ("How Could I Ever Know"). Returning, he enters the garden to find Colin completely healthy; in fact, he is beating Mary in a footrace when Archibald walks through the door. Archibald, a changed man, sends Neville away to his Paris flat and triumphantly embraces Mary and Colin back into his life. The spirits of Mary's parents join Lily, promising to keep the living safe for the rest of their days ("Finale").

Changes from the original novelEdit

Burnett's novel primarily focused on Mary and her interactions with Colin, Martha, and Dickon. The musical adds more emphasis on the adult characters by presenting (and to some extent, inventing) the shared history entwining the two families. Originally, Burnett stated that the name of Archibald's wife was Lilias, and that she was the sister of Mary Lennox's father; in the musical, Colin's and Mary's mothers are sisters named Lily and Rose respectively.

In the book, Colin's private physician is an otherwise unnamed poor cousin of Archibald Craven; Colin privately remarks to Mary that Dr. Craven is the next heir to Misselthwaite and "always looks cheerful when [Colin's health] is worse", but Burnett also states that Dr. Craven is "not an unscrupulous man, though he was a weak one, and he did not intend to let [Colin] run into actual danger." The musical heightens the doctor's conflict of interest and makes him the primary antagonist as Archibald's brother, Dr. Neville Craven, who once hopelessly loved Lily. Mary expressly accuses of him of wanting Colin to die for the sake of his inheritance.


Characters, casts, and recordingsEdit

Character Broadway
West End
World AIDS Day Benefit Concert
Lincoln Center Concert
West End Revival
Make-A-Wish Benefit Concert
Shakespeare Theatre Company
5th Avenue Theatre
Pre-Broadway Lab
Mary Lennox Daisy Eagan Samantha Fiddes / Sarah Ogden Natalie Morgan Jaclyn Neidenthal Sydney Lucas Alana Hinge Gabriella Pizzolo Anya Rothman Bea Corley Brooklyn Shuck
Archibald Craven Mandy Patinkin Anthony Warlow Philip Quast Steven Pasquale Ramin Karimloo George Mulryan Bradley Dean Michael Xavier Tam Mutu Clifton Duncan
Lily Craven Rebecca Luker Marina Prior Meredith Braun Laura Benanti Sierra Boggess Scarlett Smith Rebecca Luker Lizzie Klemperer Sierra Boggess
Dr. Neville Craven Robert Westenberg Philip Quast Peter Polycarpou* Will Chase Cheyenne Jackson Stuart Nunn Max von Essen Josh Young Drew Gehling
Martha Alison Fraser Susan-Ann Walker Linzi Hateley Celia Keenan-Bolger Daisy Eagan Samantha Bingley Cortney Wolfson Daisy Eagan Amber Iman
Dickon John Cameron Mitchell Tom Blair Craig Purnell Michael Arden Ben Platt Matthew James Nicholas Tom Deckman Charlie Franklin Adam Chanler-Berat
Colin Craven John Babcock Bart Ritchie / Ross Hannaford Luke Newberry Struan Erlenborn Oscar Williams Ethan Quinn Eli Tokash Henry Baratz Guthrie Greenwood Bettinger Cameron Mann
Ben Weatherstaff Tom Toner Raymond Duprac Freddie Davies David Canary Jere Shea Thomas Cove Bill Nolte Seán G. Griffin Jim Norton
Rose Kay Walbye Carolyn Ferrie Carmen Cusack Sara Gettelfinger Nikki Renée Daniels Olivia Plummer Ali Ewoldt Brittany Baratz Ali Ewoldt
Captain Albert Lennox Michael DeVries Shaun Murphy Alistair Robbins Max von Essen Josh Young Joe Edmunds Jason Forbach Matt Doyle
Mrs. Medlock Barbara Rosenblat June Salter Dilys Laye Barbara Rosenblat Frances Mercanti-Anthony Catherine Flye Marianne Medlock Sally Ann Triplett

(*On the cast recording, this role was sung by Christian Patterson)

A full recording was made with the original Broadway cast, including all of the songs listed above as well as some interstitial material, and released on CD by Columbia Records in 1991 (catalog number CK 48817).

An eight-song "highlights" album with Fiddes, Ritchie, and the rest of the Australian cast was released on CD by Polydor Records Australia in 1995 (catalog number 579 997-2).

The original London production was partially reworked for production by the Royal Shakespeare Company, reducing the emphasis on the adult characters to return the plot closer to the original book. A full recording of this version was released on CD by First Night Records in 2001.

Awards and nominationsEdit

Original Broadway productionEdit

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1991 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Book of a Musical Marsha Norman Won
Best Original Score Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Daisy Eagan Won
Alison Fraser Nominated
Best Scenic Design Heidi Landesman Won
Best Costume Design Theoni V. Aldredge Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Won
Outstanding Book of a Musical Marsha Norman Won
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Mandy Patinkin Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Daisy Eagan Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical John Cameron Mitchell Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Alison Fraser Nominated
Rebecca Luker Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical Susan H. Schulman Nominated
Outstanding Choreography Michael Lichtefeld Nominated
Outstanding Orchestrations William David Brohn Won
Outstanding Lyrics Marsha Norman Nominated
Outstanding Music Lucy Simon Nominated
Outstanding Set Design Heidi Landesman Won
Outstanding Lighting Design Tharon Musser Nominated


  1. ^ In the original script of the play, the date is indicated as 1906, but the libretto for the Broadway cast album has the conflicting date of 1911.
  2. ^ The lyrics are transcribed in the script and libretto, but not translated; phrased in poetic language, their approximate meaning is "Lo, the season of magic/ The summer days/ Prayers, rituals, and artifacts/ May deliver her from sickness."


  • Norman, Marsha (book and lyrics) and Lucy Simon (music), based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The Secret Garden. Samuel French Inc, 1993.
  • Norman, Marsha (1991). The Secret Garden (CD booklet). New York, New York: Columbia Records. CK48817.
  1. ^ "Stage Company To Have World Premiere Of Musical" Daily Press, October 23, 1989
  2. ^ "The Secret Garden Broadway Production", accessed October 14, 2015
  3. ^ Rich, Frank. "Garden: The Secret Of Death And Birth", The New York Times, April 26, 1991
  4. ^ The Secret Garden listing, accessed February 27, 2009
  5. ^ Royal Shakespeare Company press release Archived September 15, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Morley, Sheridan. "British Theater : RSC's Smashing Secret Garden", The New York Times, December 6, 2000
  7. ^ Simonson, Robert. "Revamped London Secret Garden May Grow on Broadway",, February 28, 2001
  8. ^ Wolf, Matt. "Review: The Secret Garden, Variety, March 5, 2001
  9. ^ Jones, Chad." Lucy Simon’s `Garden’ grows Mercury News, January 18, 2008
  10. ^ Terauds, John. "The Secret Garden: Can't see the tender shoots for the grown-up trees" The Star, February 13, 2011
  11. ^ Hutchison, David. " 'The Secret Garden' to make West End return with 300 child stars", May 3, 2016
  12. ^ a b c The Secret Garden, accessed November 20, 2016
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  14. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Daisy Eagan, Josh Young, Michael Xavier Cast in Secret Garden", Playbill, October 4, 2016
  15. ^ "Broadway Revival of The Secret Garden in the Works" by Robert Viagas, Playbill, January 6, 2017
  16. ^
  17. ^ McPhee, Ryan. " 'The Secret Garden' Will Return to Broadway, Directed by Warren Carlyle" Playbill, February 12, 2018
  18. ^ McPhee, Ryan. "Sierra Boggess, Matt Doyle, More Set for Lab Presentation of Broadway-Bound 'The Secret Garden'" Playbill, May 9, 2018
  19. ^
  20. ^ Desk, BWW News. "Anthony Warlow to Return to THE SECRET GARDEN in Australia". Retrieved 2020-08-13.
  21. ^ whitepaledot (2020-01-05). "THE SECRET GARDEN". HMT - Her Majesty's Theatre - Melbourne. Retrieved 2020-08-13.
  22. ^ Gans, Andrew and Jones, Kenneth. "Pasquale, Chase, Benanti, Arden, Von Essen, Keenan-Bolger and Gettelfinger Enter The Secret Garden Dec. 5",, December 5, 2005
  23. ^ "Breaking News: Tony Nominee Sydney Lucas to Star in Manhattan Concert Productions' The Secret Garden in 2016". Retrieved 2015-10-08.
  24. ^ "The Secret Garden Concert",, December 23, 2015
  25. ^ The Secret Garden, January 28, 2016
  26. ^ Garcia, Kevin Thomas. "Hot Photos! First Look at the Starry 'The Secret Garden' Concert at Lincoln Center!", February 22, 2016
  27. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "The Secret Garden Benefit Staging, With Rebecca Luker and Daisy Eagan, Blooms Tonight", Playbill, January 11, 2016
  28. ^ Viagas, Robert. "Wick! Original Cast Member Daisy Eagan Joins Rebecca Luker in Secret Garden Benefit; Second Performance Added", Playbill, October 26, 2015
  29. ^ " 'The Secret Garden', Jan. 13, 2017 to Jan. 15, 2017", retrieved February 14, 2018
  30. ^ "Podium Concert Productions to Present 'The Secret Garden'", September 28, 2016
  31. ^ "The Secret Garden". Virginia Stage Company. Retrieved 2019-02-12.
  32. ^ a b "The Secret Garden Plot and production listing",
  33. ^ "AusStage". Retrieved 2017-03-24.

External linksEdit