Hardin-Simmons Theatre Presents “The Secret Garden”

February 11, 2020 Macee Hall, Staff Writer

(ABILENE, Texas)–Hardin-Simmons Theatre proudly presented The Secret Garden, a musical drama that follows the plot of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 novel of the same name. The show opened Feb. 5 and ran until Feb. 9.

Like HSU’s production of Little Women, The Secret Garden featured two casts. While those in supporting roles performed in every presentation of the show, the leads alternated performances. Dr. Chris Hollingsworth, professor of voice at HSU, directed both casts in their portrayals of Burnett’s beloved characters.

Though the novel centers around Mary’s interactions with her cousin Colin, a young chambermaid, and the chambermaid’s brother, the musical emphasizes the interactions between the adult characters regarding the family’s history.

Plot Summary

The Secret Garden follows Mary Lennox, a 10-year-old English girl raised in India. During a devastating cholera outbreak, Mary’s friends and family in India passed away, causing surviving officers to send Mary back to England to live with her remaining family.

Senior Madeline Lowry portrays Mary Lennox during an eerie scene of The Secret Garden.
Senior Madeline Lowry portrays Mary Lennox during an eerie scene of The Secret Garden.

Mary’s maternal aunt died years ago, so the young girl must live with her aunt’s widower, Archibald Craven. Archibald’s brother, Dr. Neville Craven, manages the estate, which is haunted by ghosts and grief from the family’s many untimely deaths.

As she explores the estate grounds, Mary hears of a secret garden that has been locked away since Lily’s death. Mary interacts with some quirky characters before a flock of sparrows leads her to the garden’s key, but not the door.

Upon returning to the house, Mary meets her cousin, Colin. Bedridden due to illness and his father’s fear, Colin confides in Mary, and the two become friends. As a storm brews, Colin’s nurses kick Mary of Colin’s room and ordered never to see him again. In her emotional state, the young girl runs out into the storm, finding raging wind and rain, as well as the door to the secret garden.

In the second act, Mary and her new-found friends begin to tend to the wild, overgrown garden. The girl sneaks into Colin’s quarters and tells him of the garden, but he is reluctant to join her outside until a vision of his mother appears to him telling him to go. The friends quietly carry Colin to the garden in a wheelchair, where the air and sunshine miraculously begin healing the boy.

The musical puts a haunting spin on Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1911 novel by the same name.
The musical puts a haunting spin on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 novel by the same name.

“I believe that this show is a perfect representation of this current generation of children, generation alpha,” says HSU senior Shelby Walker, who plays Mary in one of the show’s casts. “Children need to be loved and cared for. They must also be listened to and valued. Love plays a crucial part for parenting during childhood development. Without it, children become lonely, angry and unable to learn. Their future can be very bleak if they don’t feel loved or wanted. Even though this is a period piece, it is very applicable to today’s world of parenting.”

Mary’s actions anger Neville, yet Colin’s recovery and the ghosts’ urgings are too powerful to ignore. The family grows alongside the garden, as they forgive and forget the grief that once surrounded them.