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November 16, 2010 > Little Women - the musical

Little Women - the musical

By Janet Grant

What do you get when you place four sisters coming of age in New England during the Civil War, an absent father (off serving as chaplain to the Union troops) and an overwhelmed, financially burdened mother left to handle things? An American classic of course! Louisa May Alcott's much loved novel of the March family came to life Friday night at the Douglas Morrison Theatre with their opening production of "Little Women - the Musical" by writer Allan Knee, composer Jason Howland and lyricist Mindi Dickstein.

Bringing Alcott's gentle epic to the musical stage was a challenge as the years 1863-1867 had to be whittled down to a few hours, but Artistic Director Nancy McCullough Engle and her fine cast and crew managed to pull it off and with flourish to spare. From some superb stage crafting, to the hard-working orchestra directed by Matt Ferreira, to the amazing multi-tiered stage by Scenic Designer, Kim A. Tolman, this was an upbeat and appealing production suitable for the entire family.

A talented cast delivered each character with such familiarity that none of us would fail to recognize them anywhere. Stacy Sanders was absolutely terrific as high-spirited and ambitious Jo. She drives the show with her energy and wonderful voice. Miss Sanders was especially enjoyable in the fun and over-the-top staged visualizations of her blood-and-guts novel.

Kelty Morash was charming, playing bratty and obnoxious Amy with just the right amount of belief while Lauren Rietzel warms the stage as oldest sister Meg; and Katie Robbins as sweet, fragile Beth imbues her character with gentle strength. Her emotional duet with Jo to "Some Things are Meant to Be," brought a tear to my eye.

Making her DMT stage debut, Pamela Hicks as Marmee, was a nurturing presence on stage. Serving also as Vocal Director for the production, her amazing voice leant such pathos to some of the show's most haunting ballads, such as "Here Alone," and "Days of Plenty." Josh Milbourne was wonderful as the impetuous, good natured Laurie; and Jeffrey Morrill as Laurie's dashing tutor, John Brooke was fabulous with his rendition of "More Than I am."

Rounding out the ensemble was Lisa Saaz who added a nice comedic quality to her draconic and haughty Aunt March; Don Hardwick as the crotchety old Mr. Laurence did a fine job as Laurie's grandfather and his duet with Beth to "Off to Massachusetts," was delightful; and Ron Tanon was charming as Jo's friend and foil, the romantically flustered Professor Bhaer. His "How I Am," was especially appealing as he struggled over his growing feelings for Jo.

Much like Alcott's book published in 1868, DMT's production of Little Women is enchanting. Not a grand spectacle mind you, this musical's appeal lies in its more low-key approach. It is, at its heart, a fairly simple story yet still a timeless tale about the power of family, friendship and romance. And from the look of Friday night's almost packed house, that's the type of tale that is just enough.

Little Women
Friday, Nov 12 - Sunday, Dec 5
8 p.m. (Sunday at 2 p.m.)
Douglas Morrisson Theatre
22331 N. 3rd Street, Hayward
Box Office (510) 881-6777 (Open Tuesday - Friday: 12:30 - 5:30 p.m.)

Adults: $28; Seniors: $25; Students: $20

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