Carmen Tate, Taylor Lockhart, & Josh O’Brien. Photo: Theatreworks of SoIn

The Secret Garden

Book & Lyrics by Marsha NormanMusic by Lucy Simon
From the Novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Directed by Chris Bundy

Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley

Entire contents are copyright © 2019, Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.

I was quite pleased to get the chance to see a show for my first time at the Theatre Works of Southern Indiana’s relatively new performance space this past weekend. The building is absolutely beautiful, inside and out, with its old-style design and museum-like interiors. The auditorium itself is surprisingly small but makes for an intimate setting without a bad seat in the house.

The production is the Marsha Norman/Lucy Simon musical adaptation of Francis Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, the perennial and often-filmed children’s classic. The stage is wide but not deep, and all of the scenic design is achieved with projections that cover all of the wall areas of the stage; it’s a nice effect that adds to the storybook feel of the story.

It tells the tale of 11-year-old Mary Lennox (Carmen Tate), as she returns to Yorkshire after being orphaned in Inda, and sent to live with her reclusive Uncle Archibald (Josh O’Brien) and his invalid son Colin (Finnegan Broyles or Brooks Roseberry, alternating performances). The estate’s many wonders include a magic garden, which beckons the children, in a compelling tale of forgiveness and renewal. While the book and many of its film adaptations keep the story strictly focused on the children, Norman’s libretto deepens and expands the adult characters and creates a richly balanced tale of magic, loss, and enlightenment.

Director Bundy keeps things flowing smoothly, and there were a lot of great performances among the cast. There was particularly nice work from Josh O’Brien as the tortured Archibald and Carmen Tate gives Mary a nicely believable character arc. In smaller but still rich roles, Carol T. Williams, Jeremy O’Brien, Jenna Ryan, Gary Crockett, and Jesse Brown, among others, make strong impressions.

The costumes by Cathy Ryan and Chris Bundy’s scenic design are period perfect; combined with the projections by Kota Earnhardt, they create a truly breathtaking spectacle.

This was a truly beautiful evening of theater, not to be missed.

Featuring Jesse Brown, Finnegan Broyles, John Broyles, Gary Crockett, Lee Gibson, Sharon Grabowski, Emily Grimany, Rusty Henle, Taylor Lockhart, Shelby Loop, Olivia Manning, Colleen McGuirk, Natalie Minton, Jeremy O’Brien, Josh O’Brien, Jessica Kayrouz Ray, Brooks Roseberry, Richard Ryan, Brittanni Shafer, Carmen Tate, and Carol T. Williams.

The Secret Garden

May 8 – 19, 2019

TheatreWorks of Southern Indiana
203 E. Main Street
New Albany, In 47150


Craig Nolan Highley has been active in local theatre as an actor, director and producer for more than 14 years. He has worked with Bunbury Theater, Clarksville Little Theatre, Finnigan Productions, Louisville Repertory Company, Savage Rose Classical Theatre Co., and WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre among others. He has been a member of the Wayward Actors Company since 2006, and currently serves as their Board President. Craig’s reviews have also appeared in TheatreLouisville and Louisville Mojo.