Will Tuckett’s “The Secret Garden” was absolutely genius. The choreographer’s creative vision brought Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic novel to life with gorgeous sets, costumes, lighting, puppetry, narration and dancing. The production transported this critic back to childhood with the magic of those pages being performed on stage — truly a delight for all ages.
Jeremy Holland-Smith's musical score was accentuated by the narration written by Alasdair Middleton and performed by Edward French. The narration only emphasized the emotions and feelings usually only expressed through mime and dancing and made quite the impact. It didn’t hurt that French had a nice English accent and is quite a handsome bloke. Even a minor microphone incident didn’t deter his excellent acting skills — one might even wonder how he managed to memorize all those lines.
The sets and costumes designed by Tim Meacock were absolutely gorgeous. From the many-windowed mansion scrim, to the moving walls that transformed as the cast of characters danced through the hallowed halls, to the iron-wrought secret garden, the sets complemented the choreography and made it even more exquisite. The costumes were incredibly detailed and reflected the time period.
The oversized puppets designed by Toby Olié were extraordinary. What was even more incredible was the fact that the dancers had to learn a new skill with this ballet — puppetry. Kristianne Kleine, Daniel Rodriguez, Calvin Farias, Dagny Hanrahan, Patrick Ward and Daniel Pratt were terrific with their respective puppets — the crow, fox and robin. The dancers, dressed as gardeners, managed to disappear behind their puppets and bring them to life. An exceptional moment was when Farias and Ward danced through flowers in moveable bowls as the fox, making it look like a fox running through a real meadow of blooming flowers.
Jessica Cohen danced the lead role of Mary Lennox, which was an incredible taxing role, seeing as though she was on stage almost every minute of the ballet. She handled it with ease and grace, exhibiting strong technique and elegant lines. Her stage presence and acting skills were spot-on with comical expressions and emotions.
Ricardo Graziano was Mary’s pal, Dickon. He portrayed the role of a young curious boy quite well. Graziano’s character was a buddy with the fox puppet, and he interacted with the puppet like it was a real fox, making the story even more believable.
Taking on a role of a sick child could have been a challenging part, but Alex Harrison embraced the part and morphed into a healthier Colin throughout the ballet. Harrison demonstrated some fantastic leaps and jumps in this performance.
Kate Honea and Ricki Bertoni have always delighted audiences with their knack for acting and comedy. Both were excellent in their roles of the miserly and harsh Mrs. Medlock and the grumpy and bitter Ben Weatherstaff. Bertoni even made a surprise appearance in character during intermission in the lobby.
The entire ballet was a magical experience and concluded with glittering flowers unveiled from the ceiling that hovered above the now open and not-so-secret garden.
This ballet will enchant people of all ages. The show continues from Aug. 13 to Aug. 16 and will be performed again Oct. 24 to Oct. 26. This is a must-see.