Lucy Simon Shares Her 5 Most Treasured The Secret Garden Memories
February 17th, 2016
by Lucy Simon
Lucy Simon's beloved musical The Secret Garden returns to the New York stage February 21 & February 22 with an all-star concert featuring Cheyenne Jackson, Ramin Karimloo, and Sydney Lucas. Below, the Tony Award-nominated composer shares with BroadwayBox five of her most treasured Secret Garden memories.
1. First workshop
The following excerpts are from my journal:
“My studio is set up in my bedroom looking out to fields of purple wildflowers and a forest of pines beyond. Perhaps this is the vista of my secret garden. I am so excited to see what will come alive in the next few weeks.”
“Total eclipse of the moon! It feels like a gift.
I wrote a song, “LILY’S HAZEL EYES”, while it was happening. I think this could be an important song. I can’t hear anything else in my head but this melody.”
2. Opening night on Broadway 4/24/91
How terrifyingly thrilling! The show was wonderful and the audience seemed to love it. I was so proud to have my whole family there. I felt confident the reviews would be favorable and went joyfully to the party. The NY reviews were decidedly not favorable. The first review that I read was from Clive Barnes who said, “ I might have liked the show if I had a mute button”.
I thought it was all over and went to the show the next night with a heavy heart. At the end of the performance, the audience rose to their feet en mass for a five-minute standing ovation. They were not going to let the show die. 25 years later it plays all over the world and is frequently listed among top 10 favorite shows and scores.
So much for you, Clive Barnes!
3. The wonderful Mandy Patinkin
During a Wednesday matinee, a group of school children were sitting in the balcony, heckling in the last scene. Mandy went from holding his arms out to Colin, saying, “My fine brave boy”, to going to the front of the stage, pointing a furious finger at the balcony, bellowing, “FOR SHAME, FOR SHAME”. He told the kids that they could either sit there quietly or he would wait for five minutes while they left the theater to resume the final moments of the show. I was so astonished, I don’t remember quite what happened after that electrifying moment.
4. The healing effects of TSG
I never fail to be moved by the importance of the healing factor of the show. Hundreds of people have shared their experiences with me. Here are two reminiscences that were especially significant to me
4a. When we were in rehearsal for the RSC production in Stratford, we were asked if a young woman might be allowed to attend a dress rehearsal. She was about to have an operation to remove the acoustic neuroma that would save her life but leave her permanently without hearing. She would not be able to see a performance but wanted to hold the music of The Secret Garden in her head. I sat with her during the rehearsal. We talked a bit, held hands and quietly wept. I have recently been in touch with her. Emily Owen is doing beautifully and has written a memoir that will soon be published.
4b. When I arrived at the La Jolla Playhouse to do a reading of Doctor Zhivago, I was told that the man in charge of the props had created a secret garden. I set out to find it. Though a winding path I saw a man pruning in a gloriously planted and wild-running garden. We both looked at each other and, without introducing ourselves, ran into each others’ arms. We instinctively knew how important we were to each other. Ian Grant was HIV positive. Singing the score of The Secret Garden in the Gay Men’s chorus sustained him. He knew he had to create his own garden. Ian’s time ran out last year, but he has given so much pleasure to his friends and everyone working at the Playhouse. He lives in my heart for sure.
5. The Concert.
Last February I went to the wonderful MCP performance of Parade. In the playbill there was a flier that announced their 2016 production would be The Secret Garden. I had known nothing about it, but was so happy to find out.
See Manhattan Concert Production’s presentation of Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman’s ‘The Secret Garden’ at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall on February 21 and 22.