Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 17, 2011

Little Women–The Musical

Opera House Players, Broadbrook, CT
through September 25, 2011
by Walter Haggerty

Louisa May Alcott's “Little Women” a musical? Well, if you can turn “Les Miserables” into a musical, why not “Little Women”? With a trio of newcomers at the helm - Allan Knee, music; Jason Howland, book; and Mindi Dickstein, lyrics - it works, and it's a delight. The March family comes alive and they sing and they dance and have a wonderful time and so does the audience. Each member of the March family has their moment in the spotlight but, as it should be, there is Jo as the focus of family, around which all else revolves.

Jo, in an inspired and exuberant performance by Meagan Hayes, grows and matures as the story progresses. Hayes dares to relate the melodramatic potboilers that mark Jo's early writing efforts, she pulls it off. In later more serious moments, Hayes proves to be equally adept.

As Marmee, the mother, Donna Schilke is the personification of loving, caring, concerned motherhood, somehow managing while her husband is off at war. Aunt March, played by Mary Jane Disco, offers a formidable, subtly nuanced portrayal of a powerful woman with a soft center.

Daughters Meg, Beth, and Amy, played by Elizabeth Drevits, Kiernan Rushford and Jessica Frye, respectively, are each given their due with distinctive, winning scenes that demonstrate the uniqueness of each character. Paul Lietz brings youthful enthusiasm and humor to the role of Lurie and Brett Gottheimer's Professor Bhaer delivers a superb performance of a conservative, restrained teacher discovering love and doing it without ever losing his impeccable German accent.

Director John Pike is deserving of special praise for finding precisely the right balance between the humorous and serious moments of the story, and in creating an outstanding ensemble performance from his enormously talented company. Projections of period settings and handsome costumes add greatly to the production. Musical accompaniment by a four-piece ensemble is excellent.

For an evening or a matinee excursion to an age of innocence, “Little Women” is worth the visit.