Sunday, September 06, 2015

i have no idea why i am telling you this

Back during the War of the Austrian Succession, when I was in third grade, our teacher, Miss Romig, read one of her favorite children novels during story time.  Frances Hodgsen Burnett's The Secret Garden.

I thought it a bit overwrought even back then.  But I appear to be in a distinct minority.  My indifference is often seen as being akin to disliking Mary Poppins.

The story has been resilient enough to spawn several film and stage productions.  One of the more recent stage adaptations was a 1991 musical.  Based solely on its title, it had a rather successful run on Broadway.

But recall the adjective I used earlier? Overwrought.  The musical suffers the same malady.  A simple tale turned into a musical melodrama.

Having said all that, one of its more poignant songs came back to me today.  I received news that two friends, who have been on separate journeys with diseases, are beginning to wind down.  That news came along with something I have been expecting for two weeks -- a personal relationship has unraveled.

The song "A Bit of Earth" appears in the first act.  The young protagonist has just asked her widowed uncle if she might have a bit of earth as her own garden.  His bittersweet response sums up my day.

To me the song is a song of hope, even though it appears to end on a bitter tone.  Here is an excerpt.

When I'd give her the world
She asks instead for some earth
A bit of earth
She wants a little bit of earth
She'll plant some seeds
The seeds will grow
The flowers bloom
Their beauty just the thing she needs!
She'll grow to love the tender roses, lilies fair, the iris tall
But then in fall her bit of earth will freeze and kill
them all!
If you can bear it, here is the rather annoying Mandy Patinkin deconstructing the piece.

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