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The Secret Garden at Melville Theatre

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Branching out with bloomin’ good musical
The Secret Garden, Melville Theatre, musical, children, kids, family, school holidays, performing arts, play
Christie McGarrity plays young Mary Lennox in the musical The Secret Garden.


The enchanting musical The Secret Garden is set to blossom anew at Melville Theatre this winter. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon and directed by husband-and-wife team Katherine and Justin Freind, it is based on the beloved classic children's novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The Secret Garden tells the story of 10-year-old Mary Lennox, orphaned while living in India, returning to England to live with her embittered uncle Archibald, whom she has never met. Her uncle is a recluse – tormented by insecurities over his physical impairments, plagued by fears he passed those limitations onto his fragile son and constantly haunted by dreams of his late wife.

The Secret Garden, Melville Theatre, musical, children, kids, family, school holidays, performing arts, play
Lily Craven (Meesha Williams, left) tries to reach out to Colin Craven (Joshua White) in The Secret Garden.


Feeling abandoned and alone, Mary is befriended by the manor staff who encourage her to find solace in the gardens that need attention. A compelling tale of forgiveness and hope, The Secret Garden reveals even the cruellest of environments can burst with new life.

Winner of numerous Tony and Drama Desk Awards, it was also adapted into a 1993 film. "When offered the opportunity to direct a musical for Melville Theatre in 2017, I was immediately drawn to The Secret Garden," Katherine said. "A long-time favourite of mine, it embodies the best of musical theatre.

The Secret Garden, Melville Theatre, musical, children, kids, family, school holidays, performing arts, play
Dr Neville Craven (Ross Burford, left), Lily Craven (Meesha Williams) and Archibald Craven (Justin Freind) in The Secret Garden.

"Everything about the show draws me in – the moving story and incredible music and lyrics. I also love the fact we're bringing music theatre back to Melville because the company is close to my heart, given my father David J. Burton started it." Justin added: "I loved the 1993 film but the music in this production is beautiful, especially the famous duet, Lily's Eyes, which is a real showstopper."

One of the main challenges for the two directors was an initial lack of men, which forced them to think more creatively. "We only had one man turn up to auditions," Justin said. "But we were determined for this show not to fold before it started so we have had to make some interesting changes, which people will see when they come to the show."

The Secret Garden, Melville Theatre, musical, children, kids, family, school holidays, performing arts, play
The Secret Garden features actors Ross Burford, left, Meesha Williams, Justin Freind and Christie McGarrity, front.


Katherine has put both her musical directors into the production – including husband Justin. "It's definitely been a challenge for them in particular because they're now doing double the work," she said. "This show also requires the cast to work the set while still remaining in character, which has meant a whole different kind of choreography."

As for husband and wife working together, Justin and Katherine aren't fazed, especially given their three children are also in the show. "Obviously, we have our own way on how things should go or look but we always find a compromise somewhere in the middle," Justin said. Katherine notes: "This is the first time I have directed Justin and so far, so good. I feel very blessed to be able to share my passion and love for theatre with my entire family."

The Secret Garden, Melville Theatre, musical, children, kids, family, school holidays, performing arts, play
The Secret Garden sees Mary Lennox (Christie McGarrity, left) befriending Colin Craven (Joshua White).


Fourteen-year-old Christie McGarrity plays Mary Lennox. "She starts out as quite a grumpy, spoilt child who is given everything she wants and more," Christie said. "You could even call her a spoilt brat. As the show progresses, Mary begins to learn a little bit more about love and respect and starts to become more humbler and loving.

"By the end of the show, Mary is a caring garden lover with a passion for all things garden-related. The evolution of the character and bringing her to life in my own way is challenging because I've had to manage my time better to allow lots of practice away from rehearsals."

The Secret Garden, Melville Theatre, musical, children, kids, family, school holidays, performing arts, play
Brothers Dr Neville Craven (Ross Burford, left) and Archibald Craven (Justin Freind) are haunted by the memory of Lily Craven (Meesha Williams) in The Secret Garden.
. "I have always really wanted to play the part of Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden," she said. "I love the songs and the storyline of the show and, when I heard Katherine and Justin were directing the show, it made me want to audition even more."

The Secret Garden plays 8pm June 30, July 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14 and 15 with a 2pm matinee July 9. Tickets are $25, $20 concession – book on 9330 4565 or at www.meltheco.org.au.
Melville Theatre is on the corner of Stock Road and Canning Highway, Palmyra.
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Why? The Secret Garden is bound to delight and enchant and is a true musical theatre treat.
When: 8pm June 30, July 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14 & 15; 2pm July 9
Phone: 9330 4565
Where: Melville Theatre, corner of Stock Road and Canning Highway, Palmyra
Cost: $25, $20 concession
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