National Youth Arts - ArtsDig - Resource for youth arts

The Secret Garden
by California Youth Conservatory

The classic children’s tale “The Secret Garden” by Francis Hodgson Burnett comes to The California Youth Conservatory in The Secret Garden: The Musical playing until January 23rd.

California Youth Conservatory has two casts performing a majority of the roles so this review will discuss the opening night cast from January 8th. 

Mary can be a tough role to play, as she walks a delicate line of sour and bratty while still needing to be a character the audience is invested in watching. Brielle Mussomeli is an excellent Mary, portraying her with a mix of innocence, confusion, and the bratty attitude that comes from a child that has never been thwarted before in her young life. It is fun to watch her personality bloom as her friendships and her own garden nourish her own neglected childhood. Ms. Mussomeli has a strong clear voice and has an impressive on-stage presence. As Mary, she more than easily commands attention as the lead, even when surrounded by the entire ensemble, which could overwhelm other performers. 

Kailey O’Donnell is Mary’s past Aunt Lily who haunts the house and her bereaved husband. She is lovely as the ghostly Lily and her soprano is a treat to listen too. Her duet “How could I ever know” with Dirk Stenger, who plays Uncle Archibald is particularly touching as their shared sense of loss.

Josh Pinkowski as Dicken and Miranda Nuevo as Martha are cheerful Yorkshire siblings who help draw Mary out her shell and into the world around her. Their songs are the most upbeat of the show and were well received by the audience. As the threatening Dr. Craven, Brandon Phol is very good as the younger brother who is jealous of everything his older brother received. Archibald has everything he loves, the house, the lands and more importantly he had Lily’s love. His only upper hand is the life of Archibald’s son Colin, whose welfare he uses most effectively to manipulate his brother. Colin, played by Reed Lievers as strong as Ms. Mussomeli in the characters initial bravado, and the scene where they first meet, brat to brat is very entertaining.

The ghosts of the people lost by the characters in the play serve as a greek chorus that help move the plot along. The ensemble is large, but they are used successfully, giving the sense that they are always lingering around without always actually doing so. The scrim is most effectively used when showing the “ghost” world as it interacts with the living, especially in “The Girl in the Valley” piece.

Playing through January 23rd , The Secret Garden: The Musical is a wonderful production and a wonderful way to spend a night at the theater and support an excellent children’s theatre. For more ticket information please go to:

The California Youth Conservatory was founded in 2003, and is the first and only youth theatre in San Diego to have professional performers and teachers instruct their young actors. Their mission is to provide learning opportunities for aspiring young performers and to help them build their skills and and have a greater understanding of the professional arts. This is an exciting and educational theater company for all young performers.

Performed January 8 - 21, 2010  

ErinMarie Reiter
National Youth Theatre


Home   |   Awards   |   Reviews   |   News   |   Actors   |   Headshots   |   Theatres   |   Calendars   |   Newsletters   |   Membership
Auditions   |   Workshops   |   Drama Instruction   |   Playwrights/Scripts   |   Vendors   |   Links   |   Advertising   |   About Us