Bea Corley as Mary Lennox and Lizzie Klemperer as Lily in The Secret Garden at 5th Avenue Theatre.
Bea Corley as Mary Lennox and Lizzie Klemperer as Lily in The Secret Garden at 5th Avenue Theatre.
Photo by Mark Kitaoka

The Secret Garden Explores Hope in the Midst of Unbearable Loss

Lizzie Klemperer has played a ghost onstage before — in The Addams Family — and knows there are benefits. "There's no costume changes," she says.

This time around she's playing a less lighthearted version. She's taken on the role of Lily, the dead and much-mourned wife of Archie Craven, the British man who takes in his suddenly orphaned niece in the musical version of The Secret Garden about to come to the Hobby Center courtesy of Theatre Under the Stars.

Many children and adults know the novel either because of in-school assignments or reading on their own. The 1911 book by Frances Hodgson Burnett has been read by generations and taught in countless schools.

It tells the story of ten-year-old Mary Lennox, whose home has been India up until the time she is orphaned in a cholera outbreak and is sent to England, a land that is foreign to her. She arrives to find her uncle distant and often gone away from their home. With the aid of a young friend, Mary discovers that her uncle's crippled young son has been consigned to an upstairs room. She decides he must get out and the trio end up finding their way into the secret, neglected garden that, as it turns out, belonged to her Aunt Lily.

More than one movie has been made from this material. In 1991, the musical was written with script and lyrics by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon. This production has been somewhat streamlined from the earlier version and clocks in at about two hours, Klemperer says.

In the musical version, the roles of adults have been expanded beyond that of the novel, which focused almost exclusively on the children. Equal focus is given to Archie, who, in his grief about his lost wife, pushes away their son. “[Lily] comes in and out to sort of draw the living characters back to the garden,” says Klemperer  (Broadway: Bright Star).

The timing of this musical is especially appropriate, Klemperer says, given the hardship Houston has been through with Hurricane Harvey. “I think it will be a great time to bring some hope. The whole show is about rebirth and recovering from trauma, and I hope people really enjoy it.”

Performances are scheduled for October 10-22 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at the Hobby Center. 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-558-8887 or visit tuts.com. $30 to $108.

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