BWW Review: THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO at TRT is Enthralling Musical Theater
Two River Theater (TRT) is completing their successful season with a musical theater production that will surely be a hit with metro area audiences. The Ballad of Little Jo will be on the Red Bank stage through Sunday, June 25th. The show is based on the 1993 film with the same name by Maggie Greenwald. Mike Reid is the composer and co-bookwriter; Sarah Schlesinger is the lyricist, co-bookwriter; John Dias is the co-bookwriter. Dias, the theater's Artistic Director is making his Two River directorial debut with this show that features the finest staging, an outstanding cast, excellent music and an enthralling plot.
The Ballad of Little Jo is inspired by the real-life frontier story of Josephine Monaghan, a spirited young woman from Boston. Josephine is an unwed mother who travels out West alone in search of a new life and an income to support herself and her newborn son, Lawrence who she has left in care of her sister, Kate. Her journey by rail takes her to Idaho where she is brutally assaulted. With an incredible will to survive, she assumes the identity of a man, dubbed Little Jo and settles down in the rugged Northwest town of Silver City to work as a miner. While Jo has some financial success and finds a sense of friendship with Jordan Ellis and Sarah Stewart Ellis, she is soon faced with an issue that could alter her entire future. Her Boston family wishes to formally adopt her baby son. The Ballad of Little Jo is a captivating story that explores love, courage, identity, and perseverance.
Leading the cast is Teal Wicks as Josephine Monaghan/Little Jo. Wicks completely masters the portrayal of her complex character. The multi-talented cast also includes Jane Bruce as Sarah Steward Ellis; Eric William Morris as Jordon Ellis; Cole Burden as Conductor/Percy Corcoran/Walter Travers; Brian Flores as Tommy Kelly/Lawrence Cavanaugh; Daniel K. Isaac as Tin Man Wong; Leenya Rideout as Caroline Williams; Christopher M. Russo as Thomas Harrison/Ethan McClellan; Perry Sherman as Horner Burns/Ernie Stratton; Kristin Stokes as Kate Monaghan/Jeannie Kelly; Ian Michael Stuart as Lee Gibbs/Daniel Leary; Barbara Tirrell as Marian Cummings/Cora Reilly. The cast deftly assumes multiple roles to round out the story.
The musical score for The Ballad of Little Jo captures the mood of the scenes perfectly. There are thrilling numbers that include "There's a Train to San Francisco" and "To Winter" by the full Company; romantic ballads like "There is this Man" by Sara and Jo; and heartfelt songs like "Unbuttoning the Buttons" by Jo.
The creative team for The Ballad of Little Jo has done a fantastic job of bringing the show to the stage. They include music supervisor, Patrick Vaccariello; orchestrator Danny Larsen; scenic designer Michael Carnahan; costume designer, Jess Goldstein; lighting designer Jennifer Tipton; sound designer, Drew Levy; wig designer, Leah J. Loukas; fight director, Thomas Schall. The casting is by Jack Doulin + Sharky. The production stage manager is Amanda Michaels and the assistant stage manager is Denise Cardarelli.
The musicians include Conductor and keyboard, John O'Neill; violin, Pauline Bradshaw; cello, Troy Chang; drums/percussion, Phillip Coiro; reeds, Simon Hutchings; guitar, Justin Rothberg; bass, Joseph Wallace.
Join the adventure and get your tickets now for The Ballad of Little Jo. It is one of the finest productions you will experience this season and we predict that it will go far in the realm of musical theater.
The Ballad of Little Jo will be performed at Two River Theater through Sunday, June 25. The theater is located at 21 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank, NJ 07701. Ticket prices range from $40 to $70 with discounts available for groups, seniors, and U.S. military personnel, their families, and veterans. A limited number of $20 tickets is available for every performance. $20 tickets may be partial view. Tickets for patrons under 30 are $20 and include the best available seats at every performance. Call 732.345.1400 or visit www.tworivertheater.org.
Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson