Little Women: The Musical
"Little Women," Louisa May Alcott's beloved autobiographical coming-of-age novel about life among the four March sisters from Concord, Massachusetts, takes the stage in Ocean State Theatre Company's heartwarming, enchanting production of "Little Women: The Musical."
Beautifully directed and choreographed by Ethan Paulini, with music and lyrics by Jason Howland and Mindi Dickstein, "Little Women" follows the lives of sisters Jo (Tess Jonas), Meg (Alison Novelli), Beth (Bryn Martin), Amy (Abigail McMahon), and their mother, Marmee (Amiee Turner), during the Civil War.
Tomboy Jo wants to be a writer and take the world by storm, eldest sister Meg is looking for love, Amy, the youngest, likes to cause trouble, and simple, sweet Beth is perfectly content just playing the piano. While their father is away, Marmee keeps a watchful eye on her daughters, with the help of their status conscious Aunt March (Staci Morin), as they mature from little girls to young women.
Despite the title and their temporarily absent father, the lives of the March women are not completely devoid of men. Mr. Laurence (Curt Denham), their ornery neighbor, shows a soft side when he offers to let Beth play his late daughter's piano. Mr. Laurence's kindhearted, hyperactive nephew, Laurie (Michael Luongo), takes an immediate liking to Jo; Laurie's tutor, Mr. Brooke (Kevin Patrick Martin), only has eyes for Meg, and Professor Bhaer (Tommy Labanaris), Jo's mentor from New York, strongly influences her as both a writer and as a woman.
Under the direction of Esther Zabinski, the musical numbers are a winning combination of lively melodies ("I'd Be Delighted," "Five Forever") and powerful, touching ballads ("Some Things Are Meant to Be," "The Fire Within Me"). Because I'm a sucker for duets, Meg and Mr. Brooke's "More Than I Am" and Jo and Professor Bhaer's "Small Umbrella in the Rain" were my favorites, yet Marmee's "Days of Plenty," a tribute to Beth, is the quintessential showstopper that pulls at your heartstrings.
The entire production is chock full of talented performers, with especially unforgettable performances from Jonas, feisty and forthright as Jo; Luongo, whose adorable portrayal of Laurie makes it impossible not to love him, and Turner, eloquent and dignified as the devoted Marmee.
Having read the book ages ago and vaguely remembering the numerous movie and television adaptations, I was reminded just how wonderful the story is, and the songs make the March sisters' journey of self-discovery all the more enjoyable. I was a bit confused when the actresses first appeared in modern attire (Emily Taradash's exquisite costumes reflect the era perfectly), but then I understood and appreciated the director's message. If that sounds cryptic, you now have yet another reason to see this marvelous production.
"Little Women: The Musical" runs thru March 19 at Ocean State Theatre Company, 1245 Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick. For information and tickets, call 401-921-6800 or visit www.OceanStateTheatre.org