Come to the Garden!


Picture from Notre Dame Prep’s website

Julia Wilson, Editor

A garden is the epitome of the spring season, a time of growth, rebirth, and change. For this reason, a garden, a place of new life, is a perfect symbol of the theme of renewal in The Secret Garden, a musical performance written by Marsha Norman and composer Lucy Simon. In this musical, set in the early twentieth century, Mary Lennox, an eleven year old English girl raised in India, becomes an orphan due to a deadly cholera outbreak. She is sent to England to live with her uncle Archibald Craven in Yorkshire. Although, at first, the mansion appears to be a gloomy and dismal place, the home, as well as many of the people who live there, undergoes dramatic transformations, and little Mary plays an important role in this dramatic renewal.

On Friday, November 15, 2013, Notre Dame Preparatory School presented its opening performance of The Secret Garden. Overall, the cast, orchestra, and costumes were the most notable aspects of the play. In particular, the lead roles gave impressive performances. Meghan Cain, who played Archibald’s late wife Lily, demonstrated both strong singing and acting skills. Her character is arguably a difficult role to play. Lily is a ghost who drifts in and out of multiple scenes, which would potentially be difficult to characterize. However, Cain impressively portrayed her character as a hauntingly beautiful, airy spirit with the house. Although it is somewhat difficult to distinguish how this effect was accomplished, her mystical gaze and otherworldly demeanor helped contribute to her ghostly appearance and haunting aura.

Additionally, the casting of Archibald and his brother, Dr. Neville Craven, created a dynamic contrast between the two foil characters. Interestingly, the physical differences of the cast members helped to highlight the difference between their two characters. Austin Cramer, who played Archibald Cramer, has blond hair, a somewhat short stature, and a soft, gentle voice. On the other hand, Daniel Unitas, who played Dr. Craven, has brown hair, a taller build, and a stronger, deeper voice. Whether an intentional or unintentional casting decision, these contrasting physical characters between the actors highlighted the foil between the two characters especially during their duet, “Lily’s Eyes.” Although Archibald is hunchbacked, which stereotypically may be thought of an indication of a “bad” character, he is actually a character of goodness, kindness, and gentleness. Contrarily, Dr. Craven is actually the selfish brother, which one would not expect due to the general perception of doctors as good, compassionate people. Overall, the casting for the two Craven brothers proved to be a smart decision because it enhanced the characterization of the characters.

Besides the cast, the orchestra was also a notable element of the play. The musical’s songs did not appear to be easy music to play, so the orchestra performance and sound quality were quite impressive. One other striking aspect of the play includes the costumes, which aided in making the scenes more realistic and believable. The dreamers’ white gowns definitely help to characterize them as spirits. Additionally, the Indian costumes and British costumes looked convincingly authentic.

Perhaps, the back wall could have been more useful in the play if it had been painted a more generic outdoor scene, instead of the garden. Although it was an impressive way to end the play and symbolic of the transformations of the various characters, it was only used in one scene. If it had been painted a generic outdoor scene, the back wall may have added more to the setting of the various outdoor scenes and then later somehow “transformed” into the garden. However, overall, Notre Dame Preparatory School’s performance of The Secret Garden was impressive especially due to the cast, orchestra, and costumes. Congratulations to the cast, crew, orchestra, and director for their spectacular work!