BWW Review: LITTLE WOMEN - THE MUSICAL at Logos Theatre

BWW Review: LITTLE WOMEN - THE MUSICAL at Logos Theatre

"We all keep hoping for your success."

It opens with a story. Jo March (Nicole Stratton) has received yet another rejection from a publisher, but she still believes in her adventurous tale of "blood and guts stuff." So she tells the story to another boarder, Professor Bhaer (Noah Stratton), at the house where she's staying. Behind her, on stage, her story is enacted to humorous effect.

And so begins Little Women, a musical adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, now playing at Logos Theatre in Taylors, SC. After Bhaer tells her that she could do better, Jo begins thinking about her past and we flash back a few years to meet Jo's family. Older sister Meg (Miriam Jackson Schell) is proper and pretty. Younger sister Beth (Jennifer Swain) is quiet and musical. Youngest sister Amy (Olivia Singleton) is selfish but artistic. Their father is away at the war (the time is 1863) and the house is held together by the girls' mother, Marmee (Rachel Sanders). We also meet the neighborhood curmudgeon, Mr. Laurence (Joseph Hainsworth), his grandson Laurie (John Green), and the March girls' temperamental aunt (Tricia Dyar). We soon find ourselves enchanted with the family, and particularly the feisty Jo, as they grow up, hone their talents, and find love.

Nicole Stratton both stars as Jo and directs the production. Stratton has a strong presence and a voice to match, and she truly brings Jo to life. She has a tomboy energy as well as an underlying emotional poignancy that immediately endears us to her. She particularly shines in the fiery numbers like "Better" and "Astonishing."

Stratton also has a nice chemistry with John Green, as Jo's friend Laurie. Green brings a boyish charm to the role as well as a lovely singing voice. Also charming is Zachary Johnson as Mr. Brooke, an earnest young man who ultimately falls for eldest sister Meg.

As Meg, Miriam Jackson Schell is - paradoxically - both warm and distant. Schell does a great job straddling the duality that marks Meg's own inner conflict between doing the proper thing and letting loose her romantic tendencies. Jennifer Swain and Olivia Singleton also do good work as the other two sisters, with Singleton nicely handling the transition from brat to adult. Rachel Sanders is friendly and dignified as Marmee, while Tricia Dyar, as Aunt March, anchors one of the show's highlights, the song "Could You?"

Other highlights include the larger numbers - such as the story reenactment that opens act two and the delightful "Five Forever" - as well as the more intimate ones, such as Marmee's tender "Days of Plenty" and Jo's duet with Professor Bhaer, "Small Umbrella in the Rain."

On the technical side, there were some microphone glitches I wouldn't typically expect this late in the run of a show - for instance, on several occasions we were unable to hear the first few words from a character as they made their entrance - and the lighting was a little rough, with a few dark spots on stage that tended to obscure actor's faces.

This was my first experience at The Logos Theatre, and I feel I should give other newcomers a heads up. Logos has a friendly, homespun atmosphere, perfect for their evangelical mission (but don't worry, there's no alter call). However, the laid-back vibe ended up extending the evening so much that I was at the theatre for a full three and a half hours. The evening opened with several video promos for upcoming shows followed by the pledge of allegiance and the singing of the "Star Spangled Banner," as well as introductions to some audience members, causing the show to begin a full fifteen minutes after the advertised curtain time. The intermission, too, featured a lot of extra business I didn't anticipate, including a live performance of a song written for an upcoming show and a long summer camp awards ceremony. A malfunction with the projector screen added more time, so intermission clocked in at a full thirty minutes.

If you're planning to see a show at The Logos Theatre, be aware that it could be somewhat different from a typical theatre experience. But don't let that stop you. Their original musical version of A Christmas Carol, premiering later this year, could turn out to be a real gem. If they can bring together another talented cast, it should be a good show.

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From This Author Neil Shurley

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