BWW Reviews: LITTLE WOMEN Has Big Charm
Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" has made its way into American hearts as a classic holiday children's novel, film and musical. Although Christmas plays only a small role in the story's events, a common warmth and familial atmosphere finds its way onto every page, into every line, and, in Theatrework's production of the recent Broadway musical adaptation, included in every song.
Director Robert Kelley's staging treats audiences to several humorous and heart-warming moments through cheerful and creative characters interactions. A comforting, by-the-fireplace ambiance accompanies the musical's emotional core, enforced by the small size of the Lucie Stern Theatre and Joe Ragey's lovely scenic design. The set features gorgeous backdrops and framed paintings of the mid 1800's countryside and city streets.
There, four endearing sisters and their mother find contentment in each other's company while their father is away fighting in the Civil War. But as they grow older, heroine Jo March has trouble adapting to the changes and must find her place in the world.
Emily Koch's spirited Jo embodies the lyrics of one of many memorable ballads: "I may be small, but I've got giant plans to shine as greatly as the sun. I will blaze until I find my time and place. I will be fearless, surrendering modesty and grace. I will not disappear without a trace. I'll shout and start a riot, be anything but quiet. Christopher Columbus. I'll be Astonishing." A fiery and glistening Jo, Koch matches well with the two men in Jo's life. Matt Dengler's boyish enthusiasm as neighborhood friend Laurie instantly lights up the stage, while Christopher Vettel's wise, tender and beautifully sung Professor Bhaer makes the perfect compliment to Jo's wild nature.
Arielle Fishman plays the fledgling and dreamy Amy March, who desires the finer things of life. Sharon Rietkerk makes a lovely Meg March, a beautiful girl on the verge of womanhood. Julie Belanoff keeps a refreshing and humble perspective as the fragile and optimistic Beth. Elizabeth Ward Land leads the girl as the sincere and kindhearted Marmee, while Elizabeth Palmer makes quite the character out of the family's wealthy and refined Aunt March. Palmer returns in the second act for a smaller, but memorable role as the cheerful, busybody keeper of the boarding house Jo lives in during her stay in New York. Justin Buchs represents the ultimate romantic and patriot in John Brooke's courtship of Meg. And Richard Farrell plays Laurie's stubborn grandfather with a melting heart.
The entire cast has the chemistry of long-time friends. They invite the audience to join their family in a wonderful production filled with striking music and a poignant story based on one of the most romantic, American novels ever written.
Through December 22