CENTERVILLE — Centerpoint Legacy Theatre’s production of Little Women: The Musical was astonishingly good. There are several reasons not to miss this production: the time-honored classic brought to life through music, the costume and set design, and—above all—the women.
Like others, I approached this show with a lot of personal history behind me. I sat with my own sisters through the show and laughed out loud and cried right along with the cast as they shared one of my long-time favorite stories. Little Women: The Musical, adapted by Allan Knee, may differ in many ways to the classic novel written by Louisa May Alcott, but its message and passion shines through in this production as the music (by Jason Howland, lyrics by Mindi Ricke) adds an additional dimension to an already deeply moving story.
Alcott’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story is about the trials and tribulations of the March sisters—tomboy Jo, idealistic Meg, artistic Amy, and compassionate Beth, as well as their mother Marmee—as they fall in love, endure tragedy, pursue their dreams and find solace and strength in their everlasting sisterhood.
The production team was strong. Leslie Giles-Smith’s direction of this production was picture perfect. I felt like I was flipping through the illustrations of Alcott’s book as I watched the cast go from one beautiful stage picture to the next. The typical image that you think of in Little Women are all the girls gathered tightly around Marmee as she reads a letter from their father at war. Smith made this moment seem completely natural and not blocked into the well-known picturesque moment. Kierstin Gibbs and Melonie Fitch’s costume designs were flawless in their attention to detail to not only the period, but the characters. Jo, for example, wore these dark shades of red which supported her drive and stubbornness and Beth, a sweet yellow which made her all the more gentle. Scott Van Dyke’s set design was only a simple framework of the March house, but it was a very strong visual element of the production. The large beams that outlined the house created an open feeling where the audience became privy to the secrets that only sisters keep. The only componant that I questioned was Austin Hull’s lighting design, particularly at the end of Act I, when Jo is singing a brilliant song called “Astonishing.” This is a heartwarming and inspiring moment, yet the whole back scrim was lit in bright red. Light on stage is a powerful communicator, and Hull’s choice for this scene led to confusion.
The women were the stars of this show. Jo’s (Megan Winegar) gracious struggle to be independence, maintain her sisterhood and fall in love was brilliantly presented. Right from the start Megan had such great energy in her character as she ran through the house telling the stories that Jo wrote. Beth (Caitlin Bird) was tenderly beautiful. As she sat down with Mr. Laurence at the piano and they played together, Caitlin commanded a moving calmness in Beth that was a stirring contrast from Jo. Meg (Karina Gillette) nailed the oldest March’s effort to be both the oldest and still a sister forever. When Meg meets John Brooke, Karina showed a thoroughly entertaining struggle to hold back the giddy feelings of a young girl and a woman in love as she continuously composed herself ever-so-slightly. But the little woman who stole my heart from the beginning was Amy March (Summer Sloan). Her whimsical whining and pining to be just like her oldest sisters was adorable. I loved it when Amy threw a fit because she couldn’t go to the ball and she stomped up the stairs, her ringlets bouncing everywhere as she refused to apologize for her behavior. Even though the women especially rocked, I have to mention Steve Plowman, who played John Brooke, Meg’s beau. His voice was clear and remarkable as he sang “More Than I Am” to Meg.
Although it was a nearly perfect production, there were a few stumbles. Aunt March (Chris Brown) was thoroughly entertaining, but not a great singer. She seemed to strain at most her notes, as did Marmee March (Wanda Copier) when they reached for the higher notes in both “Here Alone” and “Could You.”
Other highlights of the show were the interaction between the young lovers in “More Than I Am,” Jo’s unstoppable fierceness in “Astonishing” and “The Fire Within Me” and the whole cast as they reenact one of Jo’s stories in the most entertaining moments of the show during “The Weekly Volcano Press.”
Grab your sisters and see Little Women: The Musical for the trip down memory lane, and stay for a night you won’t forget. You won’t be disappointed.