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Before heading to Broadway, ‘The Secret Garden’ needs fertilizer

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The Secret Garden back to Broadway, but the beloved 1991 musical featuring music by Lucy Simon and book and lyrics by Marsha Norman may need some TLC before it’s replanted.Based on the novel by Frances Hodson Burnett, the musical follows orphaned Mary Lennox (Emily Jewel Hoder) after the death of her parents in early 20th-century India due to cholera.

The girl is sent to her uncle Archibald’s (Derrick Davis) estate in North Yorkshire, England — a dismal mansion with equally depressed occupants, including Archibald’s sickly son (Reese Levine) and brother Neville (Aaron Lazar), a doctor enlisted to care for the bed-ridden boy.The Secret Garden faces a theatrical legacy that is difficult to make anew.

While some efforts deliver a more culturally nuanced telling, the ghosts of production past loom in the rafters.Director/choreographer Warren Carlyle, who recently staged The Music Man starring Hugh Jackman, told the Los Angeles Times, “I want it to be beautiful, haunting and culturally correct.”Two out of three ain’t bad.Haunting it is.

Simon’s score, rich with sweeping ballads and forlorn lyrics, tackles the complexities of grief as characters struggle to find their way out of the dark cloud of mourning.

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