Photo by Eric Chazankin

Photo by Eric Chazankin

Review of Little Women: The Musical
Book by Allan Knee
Lyrics by Mindi Dickstein
Music by Jason Howland
Directed by Thomas Chapman
Music Direction by Jim Coleman
Choreography by Michella Snider

For tickets / schedule :
www.spreckelsonline.com
Spreckels Performing Arts Center
Rohnert Park, CA
Spreckels Theatre Company

RUN: November 27 – December 20, 2015
RATING: 3 of 5 stars

(November 27, 2015)

Little Women: The Musical opened on Broadway in 2005, condensing the 600 page novel by Louisa May Alcott into a single evening. Like the character Jo, the original author suffered financial difficulties while growing up and staunchly supported causes she was passionate for. She did not simply write about the Civil War, she lived it, serving as a Union nurse. Despite a dark childhood, she flourished as a writer, and that hope shines through her novels. The story’s core is redemption, forgiveness and finding love through challenging times, one we can take to heart today. It does not shy away from tragedy, but brings the characters through it in a heartfelt manner.

Accompanied by a talented trio, songs range from the haunting Here Alone (Tina Lloyd Meals as Marmee) to the lively Off to Massachusetts (Kailey Hewitt as Beth March), interspersed with the book at key emotional moments. Of particular note is the beautiful duet Some Things are Meant to Be (Rebekah Pearson as Jo, Kailey Hewitt as Beth). The cast has a sweetness together that is perfect for the subject matter.

Photo by Eric Chazankin

Photo by Eric Chazankin

Rebekah Pearson as Jo March has a strong stage presence, bringing Jo to life in a unique way. Tariq Aamir Malik (Laurie) has dazzling comedic timing, while retaining the poise of a young gentleman. Beth walks off the pages and into Spreckels in the guise of Kailey Hewitt—a flawless portrayal of her character. Sean O’Brien as Professor Bhaer was rather cold at first, but warmed up by the second act into the kind-hearted man we know from the books.

The costume and hair design and was rather confusing, which distracted from the play. I was not sure if they were wearing 2015 with touches of the 1860s, or attempting 1860s with a strong sense of 2015. Costuming era mashups do work upon occasion, such as in A Knight’s Tale, but only if they are deliberate and consistent. Despite this, I found the evening highly diverting and quite fitting as a holiday production. Phil Shaw and Thomas Chapman’s set design is lovely, recreating a Victorian parlour with elegance and charm.

While not one of Spreckels’ better musicals, it retains the company’s passion for theatre, and is a wonderful play that brings back nostalgia for Alcott enthusiasts and new wonders for those who have not read the books. I recommend it as a fun holiday evening for the whole family, with an enthusiastic cast and excellent story.