“I am not afraid of storms, as I am learning how to sail my ship.” This was said by Louisa May Alcott, author of “Little Women” and its sentiment greatly reflects the journey undertaken by its timeless heroine, Jo March. This classic story of love, loss and growth is brought to life in musical form at Catholic University’s Ward Recital Hall.
…the highest praise for an excellent production of a timeless story.
“Little Women” is the story of the March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Coming of age during one of the darkest times in American history, the Civil War, these four burgeoning young women lean on each other while navigating through the challenges of growing up. Each has their own distinctive personality: Meg (Marika Countouris) is romantic and proper, Jo (Meredih Eib) is headstrong and creative, Beth (Carrie Kirby) is sweet and maternal and Amy (Allison McCrea) is spunky and contrary. Marmie (Claire Gallagher) tries to guide her girls the best she can as she struggles to keep her family afloat while her husband is off at war. She receives some help from her husband’s Aunt March (Anna Phillips-Brown), who makes sure to let her family know her opinions on how they live their lives. The family becomes acquainted with their severe, wealthy next door neighbor, Mr. Laurence (Ashton Schaffer) and his spirited nephew, Laurie (Brian McNally). The four March sisters and Laurie make a pact to never change or leave one another; however, as they all come to discover, life rarely honors our plans.
Jo’s determination to become a published writer takes her to New York City, introducing her to German academic Professor Bhaer (Aaron O’Brian Mackisey). Meg meets and becomes enamored with Laurie’s tutor, John Brooke (Brandon Bedore). Beth’s sweet nature warms Mr. Lawrence’s heart and Amy takes off for Europe with Aunt March. However, when the worst happens, the sisters come together again to mourn their loss and comfort each other.
Catholic University’s production of this classic story of American literature benefits from strong performances and an imaginative set. This musical is made or broken by the casting of its leading lady, Jo March. I was fortunate enough to see Sutton Foster perform this role on Broadway in 2005, and I can say with confidence that Eib gives her a run for her money. She is born to play this role; her undeniable talent paired with her obvious passion for Jo makes you unable to take your eyes off of her when onstage. The other March sisters are similarly striking, all cast perfectly. Their voices blend effortlessly and the bond between them is almost tangible in its strength. Gallagher also delivers a strong performance as Marmee, alternately showing vulnerability and strength, and Phillips-Brown steals nearly every scene she is in with her powerful voice and impeccable comic timing. “Little Women” is unique, in that the lion’s share of the leading roles are female, but the male cast was also a strong contributor to this successful production. McNally effortlessly switched from comedic to sweet, with an engaging, lilting tenor. The rest rounded out a small but mighty cast, which engaged the audience with both laughter and tears.
Also striking was the amazing amount that was done with such limited performance space. The same set (wooden archways laid bare) effectively became all of the scene settings with the help of a few moving pieces and an ingenious projection window that acted as a window in the attic set, a fireplace in the living room set, and provided light as turning pages between scene changes (Scenic Design by J.D. Madsen and Production Manager – Zachary Gilbert.)
Costumes were also impressive, as they not only effectively reflected the time period, but also the status and personalities of the characters (Costume Design by Kristina Martin.) The live orchestra made for a rich musical experience and rounded out strong vocal music by the cast (Music Director and Conductor – N. Thomas Pedersen.) Director Jay D. Brock deserves the highest praise for an excellent production of a timeless story.
Running Time: Two hours and 50 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
While the final performance of “Little Women” has occurred, click here for more upcoming events at the Benjamin T. Rome school of Music at Catholic University.