Louisa May Alcott’s beloved “Little Women” took the stage in Hillsdale during the last weekend of February and brought a fresh take on the story of the March sisters. Unsure that Alcott’s story would lend itself to a musical, it was a pleasant surprise to find that the musical that Allan Knee, Mindi Dickstein, and Jason Howland wrote in 2005, didn’t botch the story entirely. It was an enjoyable production filled with energy and sentiment that left the audience satisfied and smiling.
Alcott’s well known story of the March sisters has been made into at least 12 TV adaptations and six films. And after Greta Gerwig’s newest remake of the story in 2019, it felt like the musical version of “Little Women” might just be more of the same. But the musical, while still following the story fairly well, was refreshingly energetic and different.
The casting of the production was remarkable. The script and lyrics often fell flat and are not well written, but the characters that the actors brought to life made the audience forget that the lines they were delivering and the songs they were singing were quite cheesy and one dimensional.
Senior Abbey Bohrer played Jo March and brought energy and feeling to the character that showed Jo’s passion without going over the top. Though she had to say the awful line “Christopher Columbus” as an exclamation again and again and skip around the stage much more than necessary, Bohrer was still convincing and endearing. She made the audience laugh with her dramatics but was heartfelt and convincing when grieving Beth’s, played by junior Julia Salloum, death.
Even though the focus was on Jo as the main character of the play, all the other characters were well acted and very endearing. Meg, played by junior Michaela Stiles, was sweet and innocent but also showed that she was a wise older sister and there was more to her than her looks and smiles. Beth, played by Salloum, was perfectly sweet and gentle while Amy, played by junior Ariannah Gaiser, was the petulant little sister who gained sophistication after her trip to Europe. Laurie, played by John Szczotka, was the perfectly lovable next door neighbor and Szczotka did a great job making Laurie a fun character without stealing the spotlight from the more central characters.
With a story like “Little Women” and the nature of the script, it would have been easy for the characters to be overplayed and dramatized to the point of being corny. But the cast did a remarkably good job at making their characters joyful, big personalities on the stage, but without making them fake or overblown.
The only downfalls of the production were the things that the actors could do nothing about. The script and lyrics of the musical were not very well written and relied too heavily on the audience having a previous knowledge of Alcott’s story. There were numerous elements of the story that were never fully explained and left those who did not already know the story of “Little Women” confused.
For instance, though a significant portion of the beginning of the production explored how the girls missed their father who was off fighting in the Civil War and Marmee, played by junior Sarah Nolting, had a whole song about how hard it was to be without him, Mr. March didn’t even make an appearance and left the audience wondering what had happened to him.
When Beth died, though the scene was touching and heartfelt, her death felt very abrupt and almost unexplained. There was only one or two mentions of her contracting scarlet fever and then suddenly she dies.
Nearly every episode throughout the story felt cutoff and missing explanation. But the actors cannot be blamed for a poorly written script and their stellar performances in spite of it makes it more impressive. They skillfully managed to take poorly written lines and lyrics like, “Who ever thought in all the world we’d fall in love and yet we did…amazing, the most amazing thing,” and not make them sound so banal.
Instead of drowning under the triteness of the script, the cast adroitly made the production touching and enjoyable with powerful singing and impressive acting.