BWW Reviews: Gettysburg Community Theatre's LITTLE WOMEN is a Big Show
For many girls, "Little Women," Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, is a rite of reading passage, like "Misty of Chincoteague" or "Little House in the Big Woods". The only surprise is that it took until 2005 for Allen Knee, Mindi Dickstein, and Jason Howland to put a musical version of it on Broadway; surely it should have been done years before. It's heartwarming, it's cute, and if it omits a great deal of what makes the individual characters noteworthy in Alcott's hands, that's a sacrifice made in the interests of time; unlike many musicals, it manages, though with heavy editing in order to fit in songs, to be true to the original.
LITTLE WOMEN is on stage now at Gettysburg Community Theatre, in an eminently satisfactory production featuring some very fine area talent. Jo, the tomboyish literary sister, who is the focal character, is played by GCT regular Kyleigh Grim as if the part were expressly written for her. It's an understatement to say that her work is great; if you're a fan, you must catch one of the last shows, as this is her last production with GCT before she heads to Wales for further training at the Royal College of Drama and Music. Also notable are Dustin LeBlanc, area theatre veteran and artistic director of Carlisle Theatre Company, as Laurie, Jo's friend (and eventually sister Amy's husband), and Marisa Hoover as sister Meg - it's a switch for theatre veteran Hoover, who at York Little Theatre, at any rate, usually has outstanding parts in much more fringe shows. And Shannon Foster, as Marmee, the mother of the four "little women" whose lives make up the plot, radiates the part of exasperated but loving mother far beyond the edges of the script and into audience hearts. Rebecca Wilcox, another York veteran, handles the less-than-lovable part of the strict, unpleasant Aunt March with a flair, managing to keep the socialite's foibles from being utterly horrid and allowing the audience to find some humor in watching the character.
It's a treat to have a full orchestra pit at a Gettysburg show, though there are a few minor sound level issues, especially if you're sitting audience-right in the center, since the orchestra's actually in a rear corner of the theatre. But keep your focus on the stage - the opening number, "An Operatic Tragedy," is alone worth the price of being in the audience, as is "The Weekly Volcano Press". Both numbers feature Jo and the characters of one of her Gothic stories, full of blood, guts, and drama (but not in any way scary enough to frighten children in the audience). The gripping musical tale of poor Clarissa, the hysterically evil Braxton, and the foolishly brave Rodrigo (reminiscent, for DROWSY CHAPERONE fans, of the "Enchanted Nightingale" insert in that show's second act in its handling) is as funny as most shows get. "Astonishing," the close of the first act, is, in Grim's hands, as powerful as the closing of the first act of DREAMGIRLS - Grim's voice is a fine musical instrument of its own. Her eleven o'clock number, "The Fire Within Me," is equally strong in her performance even if the song itself is not as powerful as "Astonishing".
Look out, as well, for the moments of Grim and LeBlanc on stage alone. Together they're capable of filling a stage just as easily as an entire ensemble can. Bring your tissues, however - there are a few portions of the show that will have most members of the audience sniffling in their seats. If you know the book, you know what they are, and they're vividly powerful when seen on stage. Ann Walsh should be proud of her direction and of her cast; this is a perfectly lovely production of the musical version of a treasured American novel.
The last show is the August 24 matinee at 2:00 pm. It's well worth catching this weekend. For tickets and information, call GCT at 717-334-2692 or visit www.gettysburgcommunitytheatre.com.