Spring has Sprung at The 5th Avenue – The Secret Garden is a lovely show! Go!

Spring has finally sprung in Seattle at the 5th Avenue Theater with the reimagined 1991 Tony award-winning The Secret Garden. Despite the weather outside tis that season – so go! (And, get your garden on – take a sneak peek!) The cast is thoroughly top notch, the direction mesmerizing, the set-design beautiful and intricate, the book well-written and the music so melodically appealing. Children and adults alike will much enjoy this musical – running through May 6th. Tickets. The 5th Avenue kicks-off spring and continues its wonderful current season with this offering!

25 years after this show first appeared on Broadway and won Tony awards, Marsha Norman (Tony for best book; and, lyrics) and Lucy Simon (music, and who was in attendance) now revisit their production with the 5th Avenue Theater in association with Shakespeare Theater Company. Daisy Egan, the youngest female to win a Tony, at eleven, for best featured actress lead, as the young, orphaned girl Mary Lennox, returned in 2016 to do the role of Martha for Shakespeare Theater Company and does it again in this production – joyfully and well.

Kudos to David Armstrong for his able direction, so much Broadway production value in so many professional and stunning touches! He melds a very competent cast into a beautifully cohesive and charmed show – theatrically and technically well done! Anna Louizos’ sets are truly a wonder.

The young, local Bea Corley (now in the role of Mary Lennox), I can only imagine, stands toe to toe with Egan’s Tony winning performance! Her rich, mature speaking voice, perfect accent (delivery/timing), wonderful movement and strong singing amaze and delight the entire night. The other child actor, another local, Guthrie Greenwood Bettinger who played Colin Craven, in the opening show we saw, is also a talented kid who goes toe to toe to Corley. (This role will be shared with Coleman Hunter during the run.)

The male leads Tam Mutu as Archibald Craven and Josh Young as Dr. Neville Craven are both excellent singers/actors and their duet “Lily’s Eyes” is a show stopper. Charlie Franklin is a charmer as the spritely Dickon. The cast’s chorale work is outstanding

Bea Corley (as Mary Lennox) and Charlie Franklin (as Dickon) in The 5th Avenue’s new production of the Secret Garden. Both wonderful in their roles. Photo Tracy Martin.

The Secret Garden is adapted from the serialized story, later published as a book, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. A prolific late 19th century writer who published her first work at 18, became famous and infamous when her novel Little Lord Fauntleroy jettisoned her into wealth and the public eye. The Secret Garden is a book about many themes including her love of gardens, relationships and renewal belief in natural healing and against medical intervention. It has been adapted for film as well as for stage. I also recommend the book for your spring reading!

At the 5th Avenue: Musical Theater Like the Good Ole Days!

The Pajama Game, which opened last night at the 5th Avenue Theater, is a singing-dancing delight of a show  – with lots of clever bits and theatrical effects to keep you muchly entertained. There’s toe-tappin’, head-bobbin’ music, a very, very talented 27-member cast and wonderful new orchestrations (Bruce Monroe) that pops with percussion (Ken Travis, sound design). The choreography by Bob Richard is fabulous fun!  As executive and artistic director David Armstrong put it: “It’s a mid-century gem from Broadway’s golden age”…and, sometimes it is just nice to get a break from the present and step happily back in time. These are those times; and, last night was that night for me.

The 5th Avenue Theater successfully brings back the 1955 Tony award-winning play of that year, ably directed by Bill Berry, with clever sets that surprise and colorful 1950’s costumes that look swell and swing on stage, (those pedal pushers, organdy underskirts and fabulous vintage dresses!). It has many catchy tunes by the talented team of Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. They only wrote two Broadway shows – both Tony best plays ’55 and ’56 for this show and Damn Yankees before Ross died at age 29 in late ’56; and, suddenly the streak was broken. Take a peek at the Sizzle Reel on the 5th’s website. I loved the numbers: “Once-a-Year-Day”, “There Once Was a Man”, “Steam Heat” and “Hernando’s Hideaway” each musically very different, full of energy and theatrically exciting!

The company of the Pajama Game at the 5th Avenue. Photo by Tracy Martin.

Though it is basically an upstairs/downstairs love story with a union strike in the background there are really no big political messages or morals – just a timeless statement on the value of compromise (oh, now there’s a message!); and, some good old-fashioned throw-back musical theater with great voices and moves! I, and the happy audience around me, broke into applause many times throughout the evening. The leads Josh Davis (Sid) and Billie Wildrick (Babe) were great. But, for me the two cast members that really shone were Taryn Darr as Mae (great dancer!) and Sarah Rose Davis as Gladys (great comedic work).

The set design by Carol Wolfe Clay is inventive and rich. Lighting by Robert J. Aguilar set a tone and time for the piece. Costumes by Rose Pederson finished-off the professional packaging that (if not screaming it…) said, loud and clear – this is Broadway caliber musical theater. Go see!

Added Bonus: This play will be done with an all-student cast, production team and orchestra March 17-18. This is part of the 5th Avenue’s Rising Star Project designed to give students the complete musical theater experience. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy musical theater and spur the next generation of actors and musicians on than by attending! Tickets.