LOGAN — Little Women is one of those shows where you might have read the book, even heard a few songs, but haven’t even seen the production before. I was one of those people before last night when I saw Little Women at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in Logan Utah. Although it took me some time to warm up to the cast, the production is sincere, and feels right at home being performed in Logan, Utah.
For those unfamiliar with the show Little Women, it is about just that – little women. The show revolves around the lives of the four March sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy) and their mother Marmee, who live during the Civil War. Their father has gone to fight in the war and because of the financial strain the family is quite poor. The four sisters have a close relationship with each other despite each having a unique and different personality. Meg the eldest, is sensible and romantic, the second eldest – Jo is strong and brassy and at times somewhat of a tom-boy and then you have the two younger sisters Beth – who is caring, and finally Amy who is pretentious but lovable. The show is about love, family, and wanting to succeed, as embodied by the second sister Jo, whose bold self determination won’t bind her to a marriage or a home.
Although the show felt slow paced at first, and the dialogue seemed to come off rather rehearsed and a bit lagging, the production really hit its stride when we are introduced to the second eldest sister Jo (played by actress Siera Peery). Her bold character seemed to command attention within every conversation that her character Jo had, one could see Peery intently listening and reacting as though she had just heard the words for the first time. The only other actress who seemed to match Perry’s deep character development was Grace Mickelson, who played Beth, the second youngest sister. Grace was solid in her singing, movement, and every aspect of her character. This was not only evident in her interactions with her sisters but particularly in the scene where she and Mr. Laurence sing about becoming “Unexpected Friends.”
Vocally is where this show really stood out. Almost every actor had a clear, resounding voice, that seemed to effortlessly convey the message of the song. All of the ensemble singing was well balanced and on pitch, and the director (who was also the Vocal Director) Debbie Ditton, was wonderfully successful in finding actors who had good stage presence as well as solid vocals. Again actress Siera Peery lived up to my hope when she sung out a powerful rendition of “I Will Fly.” Every note had strength yet an ease about it that matched so perfectly with what the song was about – the idea of succeeding and the ability to do anything. All four sisters had beautiful voices as was showcased in “Joyous Day Reprise 1” in which balanced vocals and harmony were well sung. Laurie (played by actor Jared Higham) was also strong in his character and vocal ability. While he seemed to be just a tad bit too young for the part (especially in relation to his love interest with the character Jo – played by Peery) he held his own very well as was evident in his duet with Jo in the piece “Love Doesn’t Happen That Way.”
The scenic design (by Jay Richards) and lighting design (by Anthony Johnson) was functional and appropriate for the production, although nothing in particular stood out as grand or inventive. I should note though that I really appreciated quick scene changes that were efficient and well executed, credit goes to stage manager McKenna Greener Hall for this. Costume director Maren Lyman was successful at creating costume pieces that seemed time period appropriate as well as indicative of the characters they were for. An example of this was how Aunt March was dressed in fancier clothing to represent her wealth whereas the four March sisters had clean, but simpler clothing that indicated their lower wealth status.
I need to end with one caveat – the version of Little Women produced by Music Theatre West at the Ellen Eccles theatre is uniquely different then the standard licensed version or original broadway production. It is an original adaption (music, lyrics, and book) by Jay Richards that is based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott. Richard’s unique version of the show actually premiered almost ten years ago at the very same theatre – the Ellen Eccles Theatre. While this version retains its core message and contains new songs that are still heartfelt, some fans of the original show might find this newly adapted version somewhat lacking. For example, several parts of the plot dynamic are changed and all of the well known songs from the original show such as “Some Things Are Meant To Be” and “Astonishing” are not to be found in Richard’s version. However, don’t let this deter you from attending. Although the show is set more than 150 years ago, the strong bond of sisterhood in the show is something many will relate to. Original music, a well rounded cast, and two particularly talented lead actresses make for the perfect combination. Older couples, families, and those who aren’t diehard fans of the original production, will particularly find this version at the Ellen Eccles Theatre a wonderful night of theatre.