The Belfast Maskers is doing what the midcoast theater group has done for more than 30 years — tackling challenging material and creating theatrical magic with local talent.
Its summer production of the musical “The Secret Garden” is a visually lush, beautifully acted piece, lovingly presented to the community like a fragrant bouquet. But as hard as the company tries, it cannot overcome the flaws in the script, which focuses too much on ghosts and grownups and too little on the children.
Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 novel is a beloved classic about Mary Lennox, a girl torn from her home in India after her parents’ deaths and transplanted to the English countryside to live with an uncle on the Moors. The girl unearths many secrets at the manor, including a bed-ridden cousin and a walled-off garden, from which the novel took its name.
This musical version of the story, with book and lyrics by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon, premiered on Broadway in 1991. New York Times theater critic Frank Rich said in his review that: “‘The Secret Garden’ favors theme over story, as if it were a learned essay about the book instead of a new version that might speak for itself.” Despite that apt description, Norman won a Tony award for best book for a musical.