The March family is familiar with change. Over the years, it has grown larger to accept new members, grown apart as members grow up, and now grown on the hearts of its audience members. W.T. Woodson High School’s endearing production of Little Women left the audience laughing, cheering and crying for their favorite characters.
Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott and featuring a book by Allan Knee and music and lyrics by Jason Howland and Mindi Dickstein, the musical follows aspiring novelist Jo March through her years in her childhood home in Concord, Mass., where she and her three sisters vow to remain close forever. This promise is tested as the sisters fulfill their dreams, get married, travel the world and, sometimes, suffer great misfortune, but the bond between the sisters strengthens despite these obstacles.
Robin Chinn carried the role of Jo March with poise, smoothly handling songs ranging from the defiant “Astonishing” to the insecure “Better.”
As Laurie, the boy-next-door who loves Jo, Andreas Moffett was endearing with his goofy grin and joyful singing. His transition from awkward teenager to confident adult was believable and complemented the transition of Laurie’s eventual love, Amy (Lucy Mink), from impertinent child to self-assured woman.
Emily Adler as Aunt March left the audience in stitches with her deadpan wit, endowing such simple lines as “Hmmm” and audience favorite “Bring in Fritz” with rich vocal comedy. Her duet with Jo (“Could You?”) where she discusses whether Jo deserves to go to Europe showcased her strong character choice as well as her astounding singing range. Meg, played with wide-eyed romanticism by Amy Bronick and Mr. Brook, played with eager affection by Josh Taylor, proved a sweet couple. From their first meeting to their dulcet duet and beyond, the two remained separate characters that clearly loved each other. John Stovall and Kayla Slagter brought sensibility to the roles of Professor Bhaer and Marmee, respectively, offering advice to Jo throughout her journey into adulthood.
In one of the most poignant moments of the show, Jo and her dying sister Beth (Ana Mendelson) sang the heartbreaking “Some Things Are Meant to Be” to an audience that was spellbound into perfect silence by the power of the two voices, the pure lighting scheme, and the simple multi-level set. At other times, this same utilitarian set became the imaginary forest from Jo’s “Operatic Tragedy,” featuring the rough-and-tumble trolls, the raggedy hags, and the heroic Clarissa (Claire Whitehead).
The set (Jennifer Grape, Jeremy King, Sam Bergman and David Willmore) also included a revolving two-level house that was the March house on one side and Mrs. Kirk’s boarding school on the other. Effects by Maria Joranko brought magic to the show with flying kites, smoky forests, and a frozen pond actors could actually skate on.
Although there were some issues with time period, most aspects of the show remained grounded in the Civil War era. Even Professor Bhaer and Jo would have to agree that W.T. Woodson Theatre’s “Little Women” was “astonishing.”