Little Women Musical to run Sept. 24 to 26

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Little Women at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre Impresses Audience with Talented Performances, Interesting Plot

Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre is currently showing Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, Little Women in a more modern fashion:  through a near Broadway-quality musical directed by Michael J. Lasley. This show successfully brought the Civil War era story to life for today’s modern audiences.

In Little Women, four young sisters develop through hardships and tribulations. Each sister faces different struggles during her journey, such as sickness, societal expectations, betrayal, and poverty. Through their journeys, their views of the world change, but the sisterly bond between them remains unaltered.

The performances delivered by each actor and actress were extremely convincing and incredibly strong. The vocal performances in the songs were impressive. The main character, Jo March played by Julia Bonnett, had an amazingly strong voice with great range that rivaled that of Sutton Foster, the original Jo March on Broadway. The matriarch, Marmee March, played by Katie Schuman, had a strong ability to convey emotion through her voice. Also, Beth March, played by Amanda Kennedy, had a sweet voice with a strong upper register, which enhanced her character’s innocence. Laurie Laurence played by Ethan Litt had the best male voice in the cast because of his strong and steady tone. While these characters’ vocals stood out the most, there were a few weaker vocal performances. Aunt March, played by Vickie Cornelius Phipps, seemed to struggle a bit with switching between her head voice and chest voice, which led to a few vocal cracks and a less natural sound. Amy March, played by Karen Woods Hurt, was another undistinguished voice. She seemed to have trouble with using her upper register and could come across nasal when she entered that range. All of the vocal performances conveyed the story well, but some voices in particular were stronger than others.

The orchestra worked well with the vocalists in the show to create a sound that enhanced but did not overpower those onstage. The music sounded very well-rehearsed. In addition, the tone that the instrumentals conveyed added to the performance by highlighting the mood of the scenes, which affected the audience’s emotions.

All of the acting in this show was beautifully done. The execution of the lines from all performers was almost impeccable and showed a strong understanding of their characters. In particular, Bonnett made a very convincing portrayal of Jo March as a very headstrong and determined young woman. Schuman as Marmee showed motherly tenderness and emotion in her performance. Litt as Laurie was also a strong actor, showing the awkwardness and dorkiness of his character. All performers did a successful job of portraying the proper age their characters were intended to be. While the traits of the characters were portrayed well, the love connections between certain characters were weak and a bit underdeveloped. A few mistakes were made here and there with tripping over lines, but overall, the actors did an excellent job.

There was very little choreography in this show, which made sense for the most part, but the moments where there was dance appeared very forced and awkward. For instance, in “Five Forever,” it seemed odd when all of the March sisters and Laurie started dancing around the couch. It was a bit out of character for some of them and didn’t flow naturally.

The set was very simple, which did not detract from the show itself, yet it could have been slightly more intricate. In addition, during certain scenes, the curtain, which said “Little Women” on it, came down behind the actors to allow for set changes. This detracted from the show because it distracted the audience and took the characters out of their setting by getting rid of most of what was on stage. Other than awkward transition moments, the set served its purpose well.

The wardrobe for this show was decent, but could have been improved. The costumes were not extensive in detail, however, most of them fit the time period and character. One exception to this was Jo March’s original outfit, including pants and a vest. Given that this show is set in the mid-1800s, it would not have been considered appropriate for a young woman to be wearing traditionally masculine garments. This abnormality was never brought up by other characters, which made it seem out of place. In addition, Jo March’s ball gown was said to have a patch on it; however, the patch was never visible to the audience, which created confusion.

In conclusion, Little Women at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre was a well-put together production with great performances by every member of the cast. There was also substantial production quality, and it was clear to the audience how hard everyone worked to put together this remarkable show. This show runs one more weekend, Sept. 24 through 26, at the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre building. Certainly, musical theatre fans will not want to miss this. 

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