THE Secret Garden is a vocal and visual treat, a production that doesn't tear at the heart strings. It plucks them out completely. Prepare to be moved, deeply moved.
It also reminds us that this theatre is more than capable of matching the artistic output of Manchester's professional venues. You wouldn't expect anything less really, when you look at the creative team behind it. Director Joe Meighan, designer Barry Purves and musical director Mark Goggins. All three are incapable of putting a theatrical foot wrong.
And what about little Alice Cross, a bright, engaging bundle of energy as the orphaned Mary Lennox, sent to live in her uncle's rambling old house after the untimely death of her parents. The house is a monument to decay and her uncle Archie, consumed by grief, has stopped living. He simply exists, and Joshua Lloyd is outstanding in the role. He has a terrific stage presence, a quality shared by Alice who has a professional career ahead of her should she wish to follow that particular path.
While roaming the corridors of her bleak new home Alice meets and strikes up an unlikely friendship with Colin (Theo Hill), seemingly a sickly child too weak to go out and play. There are some memorable verbal spats between the two.
For me the best songs are in act one, some of the numbers so emotionally intense I felt both emotionally drained and yet strangely uplifted by the time the interval came. Brace yourselves for a memorable ending, full of colour and spectacle. Do not miss this.
* Until March 11. The box office is on 0161 928 1677. Star rating - *****