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BWW Review: LITTLE WOMEN Marches On at Candlelight Dinner Theatre

Candlelight's newest show burns from within!

BWW Review: LITTLE WOMEN Marches On at Candlelight Dinner Theatre

Let me start by saying how lovely it was to sit and enjoy live theater again after so much time away. As we all start to come out of the woodwork and step into a new world, I stand ready and exhilarated for the new renaissance of art that is headed our direction. Welcoming me to this new age was Candlelight Theatre's staff, cast, and crew and their current production, Little Women.

Based on the classic literary novel, the musical version tells the same tale we all know and cherish. If you don't - read a book. Under the direction of Pat Payne and Phil Forman, Little Women gives reason to why live theater matters. The creative elements of the show were timely and reverent, including choreography by Susanna Houdesheldt, props by Becky Warner, and costume design by Liz Hoover and Judith Ernst. The scenic design by Shauna Johnson, with additional scenic artistry by Joel Adam Chavez, although charming, was too small for such a large stage. It would have been nice to see the whole stage used for the various locations set within the show.

It is worth noting that the pit orchestra, under the baton of Forman, was only three members strong. I truly would not have known had I not looked in the program. Forman, accompanied by Heather Holt Hall on piano and Joshua Margheim on trumpet, the three did a fine job of filling out the sound. Additionally, the overall vocals of the show were a highlight, solos and ensemble numbers included.

A musical is nothing without the players and this cast is strong as an ensemble, though the women outshine the men. As Mr. Brooke, Ethan Lee Knowles has a nice, soft demeanor paired with an equally soft, bell tone to his voice - a nice fit for the eldest of the four daughters, Meg. As Mr. Laurence, Todd Ressegue ably portrayed his role, though rather quietly. I would've appreciated a more jaded, almost Scrooge-like, interpretation. Chris Bain as Professor Bhaer also does a fine job in his role as the "opposites-attract" love interest to Jo March in the latter half of the show.

As Aunt March, Michelle Jeffres is fun in her role, though I caution to not become too much of a caricature, more so when none of the other players are at that level. Jalyn Webb as the matriarch, Marmee March, gave the right amount of love and passion to the motherly post, complemented by a strong vocal performance. Though there were some choices Webb made that I may not have, I greatly appreciated the purposeful choice in making them.

The only casting issue I have is Eric Heine in the role of Laurie. A fair vocalist, Heine is miscast as the young, charismatic gentleman friend (and caller) to Jo March in the first act, with whom there is not much chemistry. Compared to the four girls, especially Jo, Heine also looks much older onstage next to these little women.

As the four sisters, Emery Hines (Jo), Sara Kowalski (Amy), Elaina Osburn (Meg), and Charlotte Morizzo (Beth) carried the show as little women should. Each with their own uniqueness and quirks, our sisters gave depth and reality to their roles. At one point, Jo March speaks on the qualities each of her sisters possesses and the four of them really find themselves in the roles.

Overall, my other issues stem from general blocking and the show itself. Multiple players were guilty of the classic blocking trope of "take two steps and turn away" from the scene partner. This does not create a stronger engagement in the scene. This directly disengages with the other actor(s) onstage at the time and subsequently leads to a lack of chemistry with other players. There was another moment toward the top of the show where we transition back in time to a younger Jo March. Where Hines could have walked behind a set piece, coming out on the other side in a different costume, instead we see her dispose of an overskirt and quickly change her hairstyle. It takes away from the "magic" of the moment. The pacing of the show was also generally slow, both between dialogue of different actors, as well as, in lines from solo actors. With such a slow pace, we lose the energy in the scene itself, as well as, the energy in the room between audience and actor.

The show itself could have also used a rewrite or two before it headed to Broadway and subsequently closed. There are moments I wish we could have seen or at least been expanded upon, such as the dynamics between Jo and her two different pursuers in the show. I wish we could have seen more just how much Laurie was a perfect match for Jo, in addition to seeing how much opposites attract between she and Professor Bhaer - the idea that she drives him insane but he can't get her out of his mind. There are also just a handful of memorable songs from a score that is roughly 22 songs long.

At the end of the day, I am still so happy to have been sitting in a theater enjoying a live performance. Little Women runs at Candlelight Dinner Theatre until June 6, 2021. For tickets and more information, visit http://www.coloradocandlelight.com/little-women/ or call the box office at 970-744-3747.


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