Written by 1:53 am Musical, Review, The Chance Theater, Theater, Uncategorized

The Secret Garden, the Musical @ Chance Theater – Review

Photo by Francis Gacad

Written by Patrick Chavis

The Secret Garden, the Musical is playing now at the Chance Theater in Anaheim from November 24 – December 23, 2023.

The Secret Garden, the Musical is a musical based on the novel written by Frances Hodgson Burnett and published in 1911. It is the story of Mary Lennox (Elizabeth Last), who is sent to live with her uncle Archibald (Tucker Boyes) after a Cholera outbreak in India kills both parents, Rose (Abigail Cox) and Albert (Ryan J. Lloyd) Lennox. Mary struggles to fit in at a stuffy, old house full of adults, a young boy at death’s door, and spirits. However, Mary finds purpose when she discovers a magical garden.


What makes the story of The Secret Garden so unique and, dare I say it, powerful is not that they use magic in the story but what the magic in the story is used for. In the case of The Secret Garden, Mary Lennox, who should by all accounts be just as depressed as most of the adults in this story finds hope in this dead garden. She doesn’t wish for something otherworldy like her parents to come back or riches, As mentioned in the tune “A Bit of Earth,” she wishes for just a bit of earth to grow a garden. The song sung by Archibald really cements the idea that in life, some of the most important and magical things in life can’t be bought or controlled and inevitably perish.

How tragic and how beautiful a garden can be.

Chance’s production of this musical was instrumentally minimal, utilizing only the acoustic piano playing of Gabrielle Maldonado. This approach makes you really focus on the musical’s vocals. The music lacks a certain body that an ensemble can bring to the piece. However, the smaller, more intimate songs shine with this setup. It is a moody piece, and the directors, Casey Long & KC Wilkerson, in combination with the lighting designer Jordan “LJ” Curiel, capture the dread but also the joy of the musical.

The Set:

The space has a worn look to it — thanks to a wooden paneled platform in the middle of the stage. There are three big, dirty windows in the back of the paneled stage. On the sides of each part of the stage are chairs and antique artifacts. Like the show, the set has a very old, classic look. The lighting and projection on the walls add more flair and magic that moves and changes as the play is performed. The projections were vibrant and well-projected throughout the performance.


The singing in this cast is, for the most part, lovely. I was thoroughly impressed with the performance of Sarah Pierce, who plays Martha the maid. From her acting to her singing, she’s the whole package.

Tucker Boye’s deep and controlled singing on “Lilly Eyes” alongside Kyle Critelli (Dr. Neville Craven) was heartwarming.

The cuteness factor was raised to a 10. Both Elizabeth Last and Charlie Firlik show us talent can come at any age.

Some of the technical audio effects added to the performer’s voices were more distracting than effective.

This is a musical for the entire family.

Note: My performance had Elizabeth Last playing Mary Lennox, but depending on the show, it could be Catherine Last as they alternate. My performance had Tucker Boyes (Archibald Understudy). Troy Dailey typically plays the part. 

8.3 Overall
8.8 Users (1 vote)
Set & Design8
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Phenomenal Cast & Delivery
When Dickon entered, it was magic. Christopher Diem brought a special tone and energy to the role.

Troy Daily as Archibald Craven was so fantastic. His strong vocals, particularly in Lily’s Eyes and Race You to the Top of the Morning, were impeccable. I think he actually exceeded Mandy Pantinkin’s original rendition.

Charlie Firlik flourished in the role of Colin Craven. His perfect pitch and accent were completely unexpected for a 10-year-old. That kid is going places.

Kudos to Sarah Pierce who was the best Martha I’ve ever seen. Her rendition of Hold On left nary a dry eye in the theater.

Elizabeth Last’s version of Mary was so sweet and cheeky. She controlled the story, and even though we knew what was coming next, I found myself gripping on to her every move. Her chemistry with Colin was phenomenal, and her meltdown at the foot of the school master was one of the best moments of the entire show.
December 9, 2023, 4:26 pm
Set & Design7.9
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