LOCAL EVENT: New London Theatre's 'Secret Garden' brings plants, hearts back to life

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

All it takes is a bit of earth.

In New London Theatre's latest production, a young girl awakens a long-dead garden and thaws the cold, hardened hearts of her new family.

Frances Hodgson Burnett's children's story "The Secret Garden," an inspirational tale of forgiveness and renewal, is set to music in a stage adaptation that garnered three Tony Awards following its Broadway run.

An orphan following the death of her parents, 11-year-old Mary Lennox, played by Chelsea Belcastro on the NLT stage, travels from her home in India to live with her reclusive uncle Archibald and his invalid son Colin in England. Haunted by the ghosts of those she has lost and largely ignored by her uncle, Mary seeks refuge in a secret garden once cared for by her dead aunt.

The show is directed by Scott Rousseau, who has seen the production on Broadway.

"The effect of this show on me is tremendous," he said. "I lost my mother about eight years ago. That created a great deal of anger in me. I feel she left me too soon. This show has helped me to realize that just because she's passed, doesn't mean she will ever be gone. I found great solace in that message."

For John Berlo, the show's producer, the story in "The Secret Garden" is one of hope.

"Even with the difficulties put in her path, Mary manages to not only make a home for herself," he said, "but, with the help of the other members of the household, blooms the lives of Colin (played by Peter Nelson) and Archibald (played by Jesse Farmer)."

It's a story, Berlo said, that moves people emotionally.

"Audience members can expect to leave with not only the satisfaction of seeing a top-notch performance, but also with the emotions within the story itself," he said. "It is not unusual to see patrons leaving the auditorium wiping the tears from their eyes and having a big smile on their faces."

"I'm hoping people will understand that love and healing come from the most unexpected places," Rousseau added. "I want them to walk away with that glow you feel from a wonderful, heartfelt story. That kind of story that makes you not want it to end."