My favourite book-to-musical adaption.
I'll be honest, guys. Phantom is my favourite. I basically grew up with that. It was the first musical I ever listened to. However, I feel like I harp on that all the time, so I'm NOT going to do The Phantom of the Opera. I'm going to do my second favourite.
The Secret Garden.
Actually, the way I came to this musical is kinda funny. I've always loved the Phantom. Always, always, always. Sarah Brightman, Michael Crawford, and Steve Barton are IT! (Sorry, I go for passionate musicality over straight-out pitchy passion - Sierra, Ramin, I like you, but c'mon, you're professionals. Can't you sing the notes on key?) However, my best friend in the whole wide world is a fan of Les Mis, and we share music back and forth. I had her listen to the Original Cast Recording of Phantom, and she let me listen to the Complete Symphonic Recording of Les Mis, with Gary Morris as Veljean, Philip Quast as Javert, Michael Ball as Marius, and the one and only Anthony Warlow as Enjolras. (You notice I only mention the male singers. That's because Les Mis, like all the rest of the musicals out there, tend to go in for busty-voiced singers, or high-pitched vibratos, and I hate it.) I liked Les Mis, though the lack of musicality always annoyed me. However, I was quite wildly fond of Anthony Warlow's fabulous interpretation of Enjolras, and I WAITED for those moments when his voice would swoop in and save the day (and the musical).
I do not know why they stuck that
ugly brown wig on his head, though.
I started digging, to see what other songs he sang, and discovered he was the lead singer of Jekyll and Hyde on the Concept Album (which, by the way, is the ONLY version to listen to. David Hasselhoff is a huge and crying letdown over Anthony Warlow's incredible delivery as Jekyll). Then, I realized Anthony Warlow had CDs!! Surprise, surprise, right? I got his Best of Act One CD, and on that CD was a song called "Lily's Eyes" that he sang with Philip Quast.
This is probably my favourite version of this song, even though
the Original Cast is my overall favourite. Anthony Warlow and
Philip Quast as Archibald and Neville Craven are amazing.
I researched to see which musical this came from, and found THE SECRET GARDEN.
I am fond of the book. I never much cared for the pantheistic element to the story, where the garden becomes this sort of godlike entity and is responsible for all the good that happens to the characters. But I have always liked to read the story, so I can forgive a lot.
In the musical, I feel a lot of that mysticism is muted. Instead, the garden seems more like a refuge, a place that Mary makes her own, and it's her love of the garden that lends it that sense of magic. Also, Daisy Eagan as Mary is gold. And also, Rebecca Luker. 'Nough said 'bout that.
What I love about the musical version of the Secret Garden is that fabulous blend of music and dialogue that The Phantom of the Opera captures so well, and which (IMHO) many musicals lack. For instance, in Phantom, when characters read the notes received from the Phantom, the way the music is written is basically how one would inflect their voice while reading aloud.
In Les Mis, it's like this clunky crash of chords that I just don't get.
Secret Garden emulates Phantom in the sense that it IS very musical, every bit of it, dialogue and chorus and all. There is not a bit that sounds dissonant or ill-fitted.
The best version is the Original Broadway Cast Recording, starring Mandy Patinkin as Archibald Craven, Rebecca Luker as Lily, Daisy Eagan as Mary, and James Cameron Mitchell as Dickon. (I have a fondness for the Australian version that I don't own, because Anthony Warlow is Archibald Craven and Philip Quast plays his brother Neville, and they have FABULOUS voices, but the rest of the cast is lacking. Seriously lacking. Trust us, precioussss.)
The Secret Garden is the story about Mary Lennox, a little girl born in India and raised more by servants and housemaids than by her parents. She is sent to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven, in his house in York, after an outbreak of cholera kills her parents and pretty much the entire household, leaving her the sole survivor.
At the beginning of the story, Mary really is an unpleasant child, sickly and foul tempered. Her mood is not helped by Uncle Archie, a brooding, "miserable hunchback" who wanders through the house, still grief-struck over the death of his wife, Lily, who died about 10 years ago.
The house is also haunted by far-off cries, which Mary is forbidden to seek out. Instead, when her maidservant, Martha, tells her about a secret garden, Mary decides to find it.
Her hunt for the garden sends her roaming the moors outside the manor. The exercise and fresh air invigorates her. She becomes friends with an old gardener, Ben Weatherstaff, and Martha's brother, Dickon, as well as a robin redbreast that lives in the secret garden.
With the robin's help, Mary finds the entrance to the garden, and she and Dickon begin to secretly tend the neglected flowers. But not even the garden can help her ignore the distant, mysterious cries. Flagrantly disregarding orders, Mary hunts out the source of the cries and discovers Colin, Uncle Archie's invalid son who everyone in the household believes will die an early death. Since Archie cannot bear to look at his son, being reminded too acutely of Lily, Colin has been hidden away, his every whim granted by the servants that wait on him. Fantastically spoiled, Colin meets his match in Mary, who refuses to put up with his tantrums.
Believing Colin's sickness to be more in his mind, Mary thinks that the surest cure for Colin is for him to spend time in the secret garden. The good air works the same rejuvenating magic it did on Mary, and Colin begins to improve. Eventually they are discovered, but Archie is so grateful to what Mary has done for Colin that he finally accepts her and loves her as his own, and Mary finds the home she never had with her own parents.
Take a listen to this version of I HEARD SOMEONE CRYING (The voice at the very beginning doing the vocalise is Rebecca Luker. Come on. You can't beat THAT voice.)
I love the absolute crystalline quality Rebecca brings to Lily's voice. It is so soaring, clear and gorgeous, and what I desperately look for in most musicals these days. I can't stand the belting Broadway sound (Idina Menzel, for example. It's not pretty. I'm sorry. Not a fan.)
Me when listening to Idina's voice...
I also love Mary's voice. She sounds like a little girl. She doesn't sound trained. I can't stand it when little girls have these ridiculous vibratos and don't sound like little girls. I like that Mary has a natural sound to her voice. It's another one of those things I desperately look for in musicals, and never find. (Darn it, Cosette, you're like... six! Can't you sound like it?!)
This quartet is really, really good. I love when musicals have these songs where each singer has a different line to sing, and then everyone sings together, and it's just like... *shiver*. (Skip about 20 seconds into this one. This QUARTET is fabulous and the blend of voices is perfect.)
I love how, in this song, Lily doesn't sound angry. I've heard so many versions where the female singers are like, "No, me!" and they just over-sing the men, and it, again, drives me crazy. Here, Lily just sort of soars over them by virtue of being soprano, and she sounds more like a loving Lily, not a confrontational Lily. She sounds like she truly loved Archie, not like she married him to spite her sister, Rose, which is how a lot of Lilys sound. (Why are singers so angry in their performances? Can't we have gentle solos? When did passion in music become rage?)
One really cool thing the writers did with this musical, is they took a lot of the
people who died - Lily, Mary's parents - and made them ghosts, and these "ghosts"
came to life in picture frames. Which is why Lily is sitting in this picture frame here.
And also, in my opinion, this is the best Dickon ever. Just, don't even try. This WINTER'S ON THE WING is the bestest version ever. James Cameron Mitchell NAILS Dickon.
My first introduction to Mandy Patinkin was as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bridge. Finding out he could sing was like discovering Michael Crawford (whom I had only known from the corny, crazy 1981 movie CONDORMAN) was the Phantom. It blew my mind.
Mandy Patinkin is STELLAR as Archibald Craven. He plays it so well, as the melancholy man who is suffering from the crushing loss of losing the love of his life, and having a sickly young son whom he believes is going to die as well. This song, RACE YOU TO THE TOP OF THE MORNING, is just so sweet. This is one of the best versions ever (Anthony Warlow sings it too, you see, so I have the hardest time choosing which version is better).
I love the way he sings it, and depending on my mood, it makes me cry. He delivers it so well!
So, the Original Broadway Cast Album of The Secret Garden is probably my most favourite book-to-musical adaption I've heard (other than Phantom). I hope you give it a listen, and let me know what you think. :-)
Kay, that's all that's on my ninja mind for now. TTFN! (Let's see how many people know what THAT stands for. Mwahahaha).