1988 Studio Cast

The Secret Garden [1988 Studio Cast]

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The first musical stage adaptation of Francis Hodgson Burnett's 1909 children's novel The Secret Garden, with music by Sharon Burgett and lyrics by Burgett, Susan Beckwith-Smith, and Diana Matterson, was produced originally at Salisbury's Playhouse in Watford, England, on April 28, 1983. After a second British repertory production, this recording was undertaken in May and June 1986. It does not derive from either of the stage productions, but is a studio cast recording with a top-flight list of performers headed by Barbara Cook, a Broadway veteran turned concert singer, who plays Martha, the housemaid at Misselthwaite Manor, where young orphan Mary Lennox (Victoria Coote) goes to live with her widowed uncle Archie Craven (John Cullum) after her parents die of cholera in India. Cullum, of course, is another Broadway veteran, as are George Rose, who plays Ben Weatherstaff, the gardener, and Judy Kaye, who plays the nasty Mrs. Medlock, the housekeeper. All are given showcase material to sing, particularly Cook, whose solo songs, "Before You Know It's Summer," "Something Special," "One Patch of Blue," and "The Secret Garden (Right Before Our Eyes)," and duets with Coote, "I Will Do Nothing," "Wings," and "My Mother," are the score's highlights, often sounding like they could have been written for Cook's warm, soaring voice. One oddity is that Cook never bothers to speak or sing in a British accent, while other performers do, especially the children, not only Coote, but also Paul Glen and Daniel Waller. Kaye (an American who works frequently in London) uses a full-on British accent, while Cullum and Rose occasionally suggest one without laying it on so thick. Another curious aspect of the recording is that the vocals employ a lot of echo and sound as if they were recorded by distant microphones at a performance, so that the orchestra is sometimes louder than they are. These peculiarities aside, the music is pleasant and professional, without being really memorable, and it sounds like even a more modestly talented cast could achieve an enjoyable production inspired by this recording of the score. [For its initial release by CBS Special Products in 1988, this recording appeared in differing lengths depending on the format, with the LP having 21 tracks and the CD and cassette versions boasting additional tracks. This 1994 reissue by Varèse Sarabande has 22 tracks.] [This musical adaptation of The Secret Garden is not to be confused with the 1987 British musical with songs by Diana Morgan and Stephen Marwick or with the 1991 musical with songs by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon that has generated Broadway, London, and Australian cast albums; both of these are entirely different works, albeit based on the same novel. Also, it is not to be confused with the soundtrack album for the 1993 film version with a score by Zbigniew Preisner, also released by Varèse Sarabande, or, naturally, with the score by Bronislaw Kaper for the 1949 film version.]

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