BWW Review: LITTLE WOMEN at Connecticut Theatre Company
There are some stories that no matter the venue or format, find a way to touch your soul, brighten your day, and ignite a fire within you. One such story, is Louisa May Alcott's masterpiece LITTLE WOMEN, which has been adapted from the original 1868 novel into many forms including several movies and television series and even a Broadway musical. This musical version is currently being produced by the Connecticut Theatre Company in New Britain and it couldn't be a more thrilling, fresh, or heartwarming experience.
LITTLE WOMEN (Book by Allan Knee, Music by Jason Howland, Lyrics by Mandi Dickstein) tells the story of Jo March (Jessica Irizarry) a fiery, headstrong, and passionate young writer, her three sisters - romantic Meg (Sabrina Reed), sweet Beth (Kristen Norris) and playful Amy (Remy McCoy), and their mother, Marmee (Susan Hilerio) as they go about their lives in Concord, Massachusetts during the Civil War. The girls' father is a chaplain in the war and they spend their days taking care of the home and dreaming their own unique dreams for the future - much to the chagrin of their wealthy and often grumpy Aunt March (Erin Campbell). Their lives begin to change when a young man, Laurie Laurence (Stephen Michelsson) arrives to stay with his Grandfather Mr. Laurence (Keith Nelson) along with his tutor John Brooke (Doug McCarthy) one fateful Christmas. Over the course of the play the audience witnesses the many triumphs and tribulations of the March family and the undeniable bond of love that they have for one another. We thrill as love is kindled, cry when lives are cut too short, and cheer for the sisters as they fulfill their dreams.
On a personal note - this musical adaptation of LITTLE WOMEN will always have a bittersweet place in this reviewer's heart. I directed/performed in the piece eight years ago - my introduction to the story - in a production that starred an amazing young woman as Jo, who like one of the March sisters, was taken from us way too soon just a few short months after. For me, her story and her legacy will forever be intertwined with this beautiful piece of musical theater. So, it was with a bit of trepidation that I decided to see the show. I am so thankful I did. Through misty eyes and full heart I saw this beautiful production by the Connecticut Theatre Company and I realized that, through my tears and catharsis, seeing this production had reminded me of so much and allowed me to heal. It also occurred to me that the underlying story of LITTLE WOMEN is and has always been thus - though life may be hard, and sometimes tragedy may strike - out of that can come something truly astonishing, touching those left behind and many more.
There are so many high points worth noting in this production. First, and foremost, Jessica Irizarry's performance as Jo is truly remarkable. She captures the character perfectly, bringing passion and fire to the role. Her singing is magnificent, and she is thrilling every moment she is onstage. The actresses playing her sisters also bring a level of excellence to their respective roles. As Meg, Sabrina Reed is coy, romantic and a joy to watch. Kristen Norris captures the timid and sweet Beth perfectly, and as the sometimes bratty Amy, Remy McCoy is absolutely fantastic - particularly in her second act number - "The Most Amazing Thing". Susan Hilerio's performance as Marmee touched me in such a deep and significant way. She is composed but with a playful air and she truthfully conveys the unconditional love Marmee has for each of her daughters. Ms. Hilerio's voice is solid and strong, and her delivery of "Days of Plenty" was heart-wrenchingly beautiful. CT Theatre Company president, Erin Campbell can always be counted on to deliver a strong performance, and her Aunt March is no exception. All of the men in the show do a solid job as well, in particular, Travis Karas as Professor Bhaer.
Duane Campbell's direction is strong and keeps the pace of the show moving forward well. Mark Ceppetelli (Music Director) brings the beautiful music to life through the cast, and Meg Buckner's choreography is fun and creative - just right for the small Repertory Theatre stage. Speaking of the stage, Michael J. Bane and Duane Campbell's set design is functional and effective as is Mr. Bane's lighting. Finally, Rose Masselli Morse's costumes are stunning - particularly the beautiful gowns and hoop skirted dresses each woman wears throughout.
LITTLE WOMEN, wasn't particularly memorable when it first played on Broadway, but like many stories, it has found significant acclaim in the productions that have followed. This is absolutely the case for this production by the Connecticut Theatre Company. It is uplifting, heartwarming, at times thrilling, and simply beautiful. It is a wonderful show to take in during the holiday season - a time when we are warmed by the glow of the season and when many are reminded of the deep and unbreakable love of family.
This review is dedicated to the memory of Kate Caruso whose astonishing life and light still shines bright.