BWW Review: Astonishing Vocals in SMT's LITTLE WOMEN
Shows like the musical version of "Little Women" require a powerhouse cast in order to survive. The songs are soaring and powerful and without the vocals to back it up, it's just not worth it. Fortunately Seattle Musical Theatre has some outstanding performers in their current offering but unfortunately the production offers little else to back up those astonishing vocals.
In Jason Howland, Mandi Dickstein and Allan Knee's adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's story we focus quite heavily on Jo (Danielle Barnum), a headstrong young girl who longs to become a writer with her outrageously melodramatic stories. But it's the time of the American Civil War and young ladies shouldn't be doing things like that. So she uses her stories to entertain (and sometimes torture) her three sisters, romantic Meg, sweet Beth, and Amy who just longs to grow up (Alyssa Maas, Sarah Fairchild, and Carly Squires Hutchison). Being raised by their mother Marmee (Shoshauna Moleman) while their father is off at war, the March sisters grow up facing the difficulties of life and love, success and loss, all while trying to remain a tight knit family.
It's a beautiful story but this is not a beautiful production. With lackluster sets, a strained orchestra, and an overuse of projections to tell the story rather than letting the actors do it, the show just feels very amateurish. This is all the more disappointing as many of the cast are turning in some stunning performances.
The March sisters all manage some outstanding vocals and wonderful moments. Barnum handles the lion's share of the show with seeming ease and repeatedly thrills with her soaring voice. The same can be said for Maas, Fairchild, Hutchison and Moleman as well, each of whom bring some beautiful depth to their characters especially Maas who was quite engaging as the lovelorn Meg and had an adorable chemistry with Nick Hyett-Schnell as her suitor John Brooke. David Connolly brings a dorky sweetness to the role of Laurie and too manages some incredible vocals.
The cast is truly bringing their A game to the show but the performances are only one part of a successful show and the rest of the production just isn't up to snuff. This brings me to a dilemma with my three letter rating system as a cumulative score would severely handicapped by the production quality. And so for Seattle Musical Theatre's production of "Little Women" I'll break it up into two scores. A rousing and emotionally affected YAY for the cast and vocals and a MEH- for the rest. If you want to hear some amazing vocals then by all means catch this one but be ready to take the package they're wrapped up in with a grain of salt.
"Little Women" performs at Seattle Musical Theatre through March 20th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.seattlemusicaltheatre.org.