It's exciting times, and many will wait in anticipation of the Tony Awards winning musical The Secret Garden, returning to Australia for the first time in 25 years. Australia's leading man Anthony Warlow once again takes the lead as Archibald Craven the master of Misselthwaite Manor, along with a stellar leading cast that includes Rowena Wallace as Mrs Medlock the housekeeper, Alinta Chidzey as Martha, Mary's friend and maidservant, Georgina Hopson as Lily, Archibald's late wife, Rob McDougall as Dr Neville Craven, Archibald's brother, Rodney Dobson as Ben Weatherstaff the gruff elderly gardener, and Nigel Huckle (unavailable on day of media event) as Dickon, a Yorkshire moor boy who befriend's Mary and Colin. The child actors playing Mary Lennox and Colin Craven are yet to be revealed; roles that have had over 700 children auditioning for it.
Based on the much-loved novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, this 25th anniversary production produced by Opera Australia andJohn Frost reunites the original Broadway creative team of director Susan H Schulman, choreographer Michael Lichtefeld and scenic designer Heidi Ettinger with costume design by Catherine Zuber and musical supervisor Guy Simpson.
In this beloved tale, young, orphaned Mary Lennox arrives in Yorkshire, England, to live with Mr Archibald Craven, an uncle she has never met after her parents are killed in a cholera epidemic in India. She arrives to find grieving relatives and the mysterious tale of a secret garden. She holds the key that'll breathe life not just into the secret garden, but those around her, as she herself blossoms as she tends to the hearts around her.
The Melbourne media launch on Thursday 25 Feb 2020 was a star-studded event that lent itself to two groups attending the event; the media and theatre groups. Introduced by John Frost himself, Australia's most prolific and successful theatre producer who has produced almost 200 productions around the world, he mentions that when he saw The Secret Garden in Vancouver in the early 90s, he was determined to bring it to the Australian audience. Joined on stage by Anthony Warlow Warlow mentions that twenty-five years ago, he was going through a difficult time with chemotherapy, and the show was his saving grace and one of his greatest gifts second to his daughter who was also born 25 years ago.
The 2020 version will breathe a different kind of magic into this magnificent new production with modern technology and costumes that have been redesigned. Sets are being built specifically for the theatre. Warlow quips that in the original he was a bold Pinot Noir, but now a Chardonnay or bad Shiraz - he laughs. Rowena Wallace mentions she's overwhelmed and excited as she stands next to Warlow, and says this is very different as she's in a musical but she doesn't sing. Warlow teases - 'We'll change that'. Rowena continues to say that 'you put all of yourself into the character and you are the instrument'. She does admit it's a bit of a challenge putting on a Yorkshire accent and that she came out sounding more Irish. She also jokes that this will be a very soppy production as she's going to be crying.
The audience was treated to a small taste of the music in the production to whet their appetites on as Georgina Hopson breaks out withCome to my Garden followed by the magnificentWarlow with A Bit of Earth. Last but not least, Rob McDougall and Anthony Warlow team up in a duet of Lily's Eyes. This is but a small taste of a sumptuous score that contains a raft of wonderful songs. The Secret Garden is set to take Australia by storm, yet again. Prepare to be amazed!
John Frost on stage with the leading cast - This & following images, Writers Own. YouTube video links from Mallory Arbour/Cry Little Sister