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'The Secret Garden' blooms after a long winter

Mallory Keith, Jared Bergen, Ronnie Green, and Victoria

Mallory Keith, Jared Bergen, Ronnie Green, and Victoria Andrunik in "The Secret Garden," playing at C.M. Performing Arts Center in Oakdale through Nov. 13. Photo Credit: Tim Pappalardo Photo

Although "The Secret Garden," the musical based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1911 novel, is regarded as a children's tale, it doesn't get trotted out every few years like a Disney DVD. Since a spate of productions following its 1991 Broadway debut, "Secret Garden" has rarely played Long Island.

Noel Ruiz and Joseph Campanello codirect this ode to survival and redemption. Mary, a 10-year-old orphaned by cholera in India and played with endearing brattiness by Victoria Andrunik, comes to live with her hunchbacked Uncle Archibald (Robert Butterley), himself still mourning the loss of his wife. Lily (Sarah Brown understudying for Christina D'Orta) died giving birth to their son Colin. Played by Jared Bergen with suitable fragility, despite healthy lungs that propel a lilting soprano, Colin has been bedridden most of his life. With the help of her cheery friend Dickon (Ronnie Green) and his sister, the chambermaid (Mallory Keith), Mary discovers Lily's all-but-forgotten garden. Its rejuvenation inspires, well, you can guess the rest.

Brown manages a haunting effect as Lily's ghost follows Archibald about the sprawling mansion, assembled like chess pieces on Jenn Hocker and Ruiz's set. "I Heard Someone Crying," a trio featuring Butterley's splendid tenor outdueling Brown and young Mary, is an early high point.

Michael Santangelo musically directs to a recorded score, which occasionally overwhelms undermiked actors. That's another reason we prefer a live, self-modulating orchestra.

WHAT: "The Secret Garden," music by Lucy Simon, book and lyrics by Marsha Norman

WHEN | WHERE: Friday and Saturday at 8, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. through Nov. 13, C.M. Performing Arts Center, 931 Montauk Hwy., Oakdale

INFO: $16-$22; cmpac.com, 631-218-2810

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